Grilling A Bush Pick

After President Bush settled on Michael Mukasey to be his next attorney general, White House officials were privately worried about how conservatives would react given the ex-judge's lack of "movement" credentials. But in a series of private meetings arranged by chief of staff Josh Bolten prior to the nomination, Mukasey, 66, reassured top hard-liners, such as Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo and former A.G. Edwin Meese. According to three sources, who asked not to be named discussing the private meetings, Mukasey said that he saw "significant problems" with shutting down Guantánamo Bay and that he understood the need for the CIA to use some "enhanced" interrogation techniques against Qaeda suspects. Mukasey also signaled reluctance with naming a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-administration misconduct, according to one participant. "Gosh, I'm a little worried that the Democrats might have problems with him," said one well-connected conservative after being briefed on Mukasey's responses. But key Democrats, such as Senate Judiciary chair Patrick Leahy, view Mukasey as a more substantive, independent figure than Alberto Gonzales and have signaled that he will be quickly confirmed. Meanwhile, the probes into the Gonzales era will continue. The departed A.G. is now looking for a private lawyer to represent him, according to two legal sources who asked not to be identified because of the matter's sensitivity.

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