Byline: Joseph Curl and Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A federal appeals court judge who served as special counsel during the Senate Whitewater hearings and vigorously led a committee probe of President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was nominated yesterday by President Bush to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Michael Chertoff, who as head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division helped craft the war on terrorism after the September 11 attacks, would replace Tom Ridge, Homeland Security's first chief.
"In all of his roles, Mike has shown a deep commitment to the cause of justice, and an unwavering determination to protect the American people," the president said during a brief ceremony in the White House Cabinet Room.
Embarrassed when his last pick for the post, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, withdrew amid accusations of extramarital affairs and his questionable employment of a Mexican housekeeper, Mr. Bush twice noted that Mr. Chertoff has been through the Senate vetting process three times.
The president also sought to allay concerns over hot-button issues, including racial profiling and information-sharing among the 22 agencies that now comprise Homeland Security.
"As head of the Criminal Division, and as a U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Mike built an impressive record of cutting through red tape and moving organizations into action. He's worked cooperatively with the federal and state and local law-enforcement officials. He will always be a friend to America's first responders," Mr. Bush said.
The president also said Mr. Chertoff, 51, is "against racial profiling" and worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund "to represent poor inmates on death row."
Glenn Ivey, a former Democratic attorney on the Senate Whitewater Committee and now the state's attorney in Prince George's County, said if Mr. Chertoff is "as tough on terrorists as he was on the Democrats in the Whitewater investigation, the nation is in pretty good hands."
Mr. Chertoff's involvement in the Whitewater inquiry, where he was authorized to investigate accusations into suspected wrongdoing by the Clintons and other administration officials, is not expected to play a role in his confirmation process. His three Senate confirmations came after his work with the Whitewater committee.
It was Mr. Chertoff who pushed the investigation into Mrs. Clinton's former Little Rock, Ark., Rose Law Firm billing records, mysteriously found in the White House residence two years after they had been subpoenaed, suggesting a conspiracy to obstruct justice by Mrs. Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton, in a statement, said she looked forward to meeting with Mr. Chertoff "in the very near future to discuss many important issues, including the specific homeland security needs of New York as well as the many homeland security challenges confronting our nation."
In 2001, when Mr. Chertoff was confirmed 95-1 by the Senate to head the Criminal Division, Mrs. Clinton was the lone dissenter.
Republicans and other Democrats reacted favorably to the nomination.
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will hold the Chertoff confirmation hearings, described the nominee as "a respected lawyer and law enforcer," saying he looked forward to "reviewing his record in detail."
"Judge Chertoff, if confirmed, will face significant challenges to improve the department's operations and set clear security policies to safeguard the American public from future terrorist attacks," he said. …