No Input from DOJ
While Mukasey’s nomination is pending, the Justice Departmentwill be run by former civil division chief Peter D. Keisler, aconservative appointee who this week was a surprise replacement in thatrole for Solicitor General Paul D. Clement.Clement, who was publicly tagged last month as the temporaryreplacement for Gonzales, wound up officially taking the helm at 12:01a.m. Monday and relinquishing it 24 hours later, officials said.
The switch was made on Sunday by the White House with no input fromJustice Department officials, said two sources with knowledge of thematter. The change added another level of uncertainty to life at theJustice Department, where nearly every top senior official has resignedin the wake of controversies under Gonzales.
The article goes on to suggest that Chuck Schumer (whose pick Mukasey was, effectively) is brokering some kind of deal with the White House.
Schumer, who has been in touch with Fielding, stopped short of sayinghe is brokering a deal but said: "I made it clear to the judge howimportant it was to solve this. I’m trying to make sure everythingworks out." Schumer said he talked with Mukasey about habeas corpusissues, wiretapping, "the unitary theory of the executive," andproblems in the civil rights division. Mukasey promised he will returnwith answers.
Though I think Schumer is pretty shrewd, for a Democrat, I also worry that his attempt to leverage the Gonzales replacement could backfire. I expanded on my earlier thoughts on the Keisler headfake in my Guardian column.
By appointing Keisler acting attorney general, Bush has given the slotof chief law enforcement officer in the land to a longtime ally ofAT&T, a telecommuncations giant whose decisions about cooperating(or not) with the government could have tremendous impact on theadministration’s surveillance policies.
The longer Democrats stall Mukasey’s approval in the Senate, thelonger they’ll leave the telecommunications fox in charge of theprivacy hen house. Democrats can hold out for the documents they’vebeen demanding for years; if they do so, they may finally learn what itwas about the warrantless wiretap program that so greatly disturbedformer administration officials like James Comey. But in doing so they leave allies of the telecommunications industryin remarkable position to influence the administration’s ongoing agenda- and perhaps to institutionalize the existing surveillance program.
Like I said, Schumer is pretty smart. I just hope he knows what he’s doing. And I hope the brokered deal doesn’t replace an investigation.