Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave his sendoff speech yesterday, and, after the usual boilerplate — “pleasure to work alongside a group of the most talented legal professionals anyone could ever hope to work with…” — he made reference to the department’s politicization under the Bush administration.
From Mukasey’s prepared remarks:
As I suggested a few moments ago, not all of the news over the last 14 months was good news. We heard allegations, and saw revelations, of politically influenced functioning within the Department, principally in hiring, and of other deviations from established procedures and acceptable professional standards. Thankfully, we can draw a measure of satisfaction even from these painful episodes. After all, many of the revelations and solutions came from within the Department itself. And, in those cases where investigations have been warranted, the Department has shown that it is capable of conducting the necessary review of the conduct and practices of its own people and of others.
We have also responded to these troubling allegations by changing policies and procedures. We instituted rules that limit contact between the Department and the White House on ongoing cases; we restored the role of career lawyers in making hiring decisions in the Honors and Summer Law Intern Programs; and we took steps to ensure that hiring and recruitment decisions throughout the Department take place on the merits, and without regard for any improper consideration, be it politics, age, race or sexual orientation.
It’s true that Mukasey’s tenure hasn’t seen the kind of blatant politicization in hiring that we saw under Alberto Gonzales — and Mukasey’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal wrongdoing occurred in regard to the US Attorneys firings may help us finally get to the bottom of that issue. But on crucial issues of the day like torture and warrantless wiretapping, he’s been far from the model of independence that the Attorney General is supposed to represent.
One sidenote: The press release containing Mukasey’s comments was dated: “TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2008” Two mistakes by DOJ in one attempt to render today’s date! Really gives you confidence in our federal law enforcement system.