Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Giuliani Pals Chertoff and Mukasey: Putting the Squeeze on Civil Liberties?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Giuliani Pals Chertoff and Mukasey: Putting the Squeeze on Civil Liberties?

Article excerpt

EVEN BEFORE HE was sworn in as the nation's 81st attorney general-the second Jewish one, after Edward H. Levi-Michael Mukasey had soared to the top of "The Forward 50." The Nov. 12 edition of the Jewish weekly counted him first among equals (the 50 most influential American Jews). While describing Mukasey as "distant from the circles of power," The Forward explained that the successor to the discredited Alberto Gonzales displayed "a strong record in judging terrorism cases, full support for Bush's post-9/11 USA PATRIOT Act ["Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism"] and-having first been proposed by New York Democrat Charles Schumer-a seeming promise of easy Senate confirmation."

The Forward went on to point out that "together with another Jewish cabinet member, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [who somehow failed to make the list], Mukasey will be responsible for shaping America's anti-terrorism policy."

Given the two men's histories and stances on "anti-terror" cases and legislation, however, this is not necessarily a reassuring prospect for proponents of civil liberties at home and abroad.

In addition to their shared religion-although, unlike Chertoff (and Schumer), Mukasey is an Orthodox Jew-the two Bush administration cabinet members have a long-time association with Republican presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani-as, indeed, does the publicity-happy Schumer.

In fact, their New York-New Jersey web of alliances is so tangled as to be almost inextricable. Since the Schumer strand is the simplest, let's start with that.

The Schumer-Giuliani Connection

In 1974, the year he graduated from Harvard Law School, Schumer ran for and was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he served three terms. In 1980, when then-Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman won the Democratic nomination for Senate, Schumer ran for her House seat-and won again. (In fact, he has never lost an election.)

According to Wayne Barrett's article "No Skeletons in My Closet!" in the Oct. 30, 2007 Village Voice, however, Brooklyn's then-U.S. Attorney Ray Dearie (now a federal judge for the Eastern District of New York) recommended that Schumer be indicted for alleged improprieties in his election campaign. But in 1983 Dearie's recommendation was squashed in Washington-by then-Associate Attorney General Rudolph Giuliani.

Ten years later Giuliani was elected mayor of New York. "Schumer's wife, Iris Weinshall, held several top posts" in the Giuliani administration, Barrett reports, ultimately serving as commissioner of transportation. In fact, Barrett adds, Weinshall was one of only two top aides Giuliani asked his successor, Michael Bloomberg, to retain at City Hall when the latter assumed office in 2002 (after Giuliani decided against trying to amend the law to allow him to seek an extra term).

Having submitted Mukasey's name as a possible Supreme Court nominee in June 2003, now-Senator Schumer first suggested him as a candidate for attorney general on "Meet the Press" in March 2007. (Schumer also was an enthusiastic backer of the nomination as homeland security chief of Bernard Kerik, the recently indicted former Giuliani chauffeur and business partner.) When Mukasey's nomination stalled after he refused to say whether he considered waterboarding a form of torture, Schumer was one of only two Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (the other being Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California) to back the Republican nominee, effectively clearing the way for his confirmation as attorney general.

Mukasey: Giuliani's "Close Friend And Associate" of 35 Years

After clerking with Judge Lloyd MacMahon, a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for that same district in 1970. Two years later, Mukasey became a fellow assistant U. …

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