President Bush's pick to replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Michael Mukasey, has extensive ties to Rudy Giuliani -- from Judge Mukasey swearing in mayor-elect Giuliani, to Mukasey's son Marc being hired by Giuliani's law firm, to the ex-judge serving on Rudy's presidential campaign.
These links have not been lost on Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The chairman of the Judiciary Committee wants assurances that the former judge will keep himself above the political fray in 2008:
Another aspect of this concern is your close association with a candidate for the Republican nomination for President. Given that longstanding relationship, what assurances can you give the Committee, the Senate and the American people, should he be the Republican nominee, that you will not improperly use your position? The White House press operation suggested last weekend that you would recuse yourself from matters involving Mr. Guiliani. Is that true, and would that recusal include the Republican presidential campaign if he is the Republican nominee?
This concern alone is probably not enough to hold up Mukasey's confirmation in the Senate. But it could set up conflict down the road. Leahy's camp could slam the ex-judge for actions seen as helpful to Republican candidates for office in 2008, including Giuliani if he and his cell phone make it through the primaries. Alleged Justice Department interference in electoral politics has been a driving force behind this year's probe into the firing of a group of US Attorneys.
And Senate Republicans could be ready to slice back. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has engaged in a low-level war of words with Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for being a key voice in the US Attorneys probe while also heading up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. To Specter, investigating the Bush administration while raising money for your party's senatorial candidates was a major conflict of interest.
Specter's office said he had no comment on Leahy's pointed query. But the matter may be rumbling underneath the campaign trail.