[JURIST] Senate confirmation hearings for US Attorney General nominee Michael B. Mukasey [WH factsheet; PBWT profile] could begin as early as October 17, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] said Thursday. Leahy on Tuesday listed what he described as topics of "concern" to be addressed in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings in a letter [press release and text; JURIST report] to Mukasey. Leahy encouraged Mukasey to directly answer questions which have been avoided by the White House and to commit to restoring political independence to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. He also said he would seek Mukasey's opinion on controversial issues including the US Attorney firings scandal [JURIST news archive], the investigation of alleged election crimes, the executive abuse of secrecy and expansion of power, and his willingness to share materials related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] investigations. Leahy also inquired into Mukasey's close relationship with presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani [official profile] and whether he would recuse himself from matters related to Giuliani.
Last month Mukasey told Leahy in a private meeting [JURIST report] that as attorney general he would forbid DOJ employees from discussing sensitive cases with outside agencies, the White House or Congress without his authorization. Leahy said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting that he was pleased with Mukasey's "attitude," retreating from earlier statements that he would hold up Mukasey's nomination until the Bush administration hands over key information about its domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. President George W. Bush formally nominated [JURIST report] Mukasey to replace former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [JURIST news archive] September 17. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have generally reacted favorably [JURIST report] to the nomination, expressing tentative bipartisan support for a quick confirmation process. AP has more.