Mukasey, Rudy and Bernie Kerik

While everyone is focused on Michael Mukasey's refusal to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture, another story is being overlooked.

A must read: Wayne Barrett's latest in the Village Voice, No Skeletons in My Closet.

When Mukasey was nominated, I expressed concern about his closeness to Rudy Giuliani.That concern has just grown exponentially.

After reading Barrett, I'm wondering whether the reason Mukasey is willing to take on the Attorney General job for a short 14 months is because Rudy has promised to keep him in the spot should he become President.

Mukasey has said he'd recuse himself from the expected impending federal indictment of Bernie Kerik. But, as Barrett explains, Kerik is just one of many cases with connections to Rudy that the Justice Department will be handling. Mukasey's son, a partner in Bracewell-Guiliani, plays a key role in many of them.

There's also the question about whether Mukasey has been honest or complete in his description of his political activities on behalf of Rudy, particularly while he was a federal judge and not supposed to be politically active.

Here are but two examples:

Mukasey might also have to deal with a Justice investigation of Ken Caruso, a Giuliani and Mukasey friend who was allegedly involved in the bilking of a prominent Texas Republican donor of millions, according to a recent story by Politico.com. Caruso, who apparently refused to cooperate with a U.S. Senate investigation of the banking scam, is a partner with Marc Mukasey at Bracewell & Giuliani. Both were hired by Giuliani, who set up the firm's Manhattan office in 2005. Caruso is represented by Patterson Belknap, Michael Mukasey's current and Giuliani's former firm.

In addition, one of Giuliani's closest allies in New York politics, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, is under federal investigation, and the chairman of Giuliani's South Carolina campaign, Thomas Ravenel, is awaiting sentencing on federal charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The government will have to make a sentencing recommendation late this year in the Ravenel case, and the Justice Department would have to approve any Bruno indictment. Bruno announced his endorsement of Giuliani in May, and Giuliani recently made comments strongly supporting Bruno in his ongoing battle with Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer.

The conflicts even reach to the NSA wiretapping issue with respect to Verizon:

Even the recent ruckus about Verizon and its cooperation with the National Security Agency's domestic-surveillance program may put Mukasey in a Giuliani-connected bind. The company has admitted that it turned over 94,000 customer records to the NSA, many without a court order, since January 2005, and a Justice Department inspector general's report in 2006 found that similar potentially improper record transfers occurred for years before that. Verizon is a prime client of Bracewell & Giuliani.

In addition, Paul Crotty, the respected federal judge who joined Mukasey on the Manhattan bench in late 2005, was the regional president of Verizon, which is based in New York. Crotty was Giuliani's corporation counsel and contributed $5,500 to his federal campaign committees before he became a judge—$1,000 more than the legal limit (the excess was returned). When Crotty left, a Verizon press release stated that he was "responsible for government relations and regulatory affairs for Verizon's largest telephone operations company," but a company spokeswoman declined to answer questions about his possible involvement in the surveillance decisions, and Crotty did not return telephone calls from the Voice. Justice has already filed lawsuits in an attempt to protect Verizon from the subpoenas served on it by several states, and Mukasey will clearly be faced with a multiplicity of issues arising from the surveillance program.

One more:

Even Mukasey's current clients at Patterson have connections to both Giuliani and the Justice Department that raise disturbing questions. He represents the Renco Group, the private holding company that owns 40 percent of the joint venture that manufactures Humvees and has seen its profits soar in Iraq. Renco chairman Ira Rennert and his wife have maxed out their donations to the Giuliani campaign at $4,600 apiece. The Justice Department is suing a Renco affiliate for a magnesium plant that has polluted the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and federal prosecutors have been described in news accounts as "determined" to make Rennert "personally pay for the way his companies conduct business."

Then there's Linda Lay, widow of Enron's Ken Lay, who was represented civilly by Bracewell Giuliani. Mukasey has represented her in mediation disputes over Ken Lay's estate and the Justice Department is suing her to collect money for Enron victims.

Mukasey says his active involvement in Rudy's campaigns didn't start until his current bid for President.

First, there's the meetings. Was he or wasn't he a member of Rudy's "kitchen cabinet" while a federal judge?

In 1993, Mukasey served as a secret adviser to Giuliani's mayoral campaign while he was on the federal bench in Manhattan, according to sources who were involved at the time. Mukasey was one of the close Giuliani friends who gathered at a house that the mayoral candidate rented for the summer in Oyster Bay, Long Island. That's what two people present at the house for these weekend sessions in the middle of the '93 campaign vividly recall. Asked about Mukasey's attendance at these sessions and any advisory role he might have played in other Giuliani campaigns, White House press aide Tony Fratto limited his response to the summer get-togethers. "Judge Mukasey has never attended any campaign-strategy meetings for Mayor Giuliani in Oyster Bay," he said.

But the people who were at the gatherings say they were not "meetings" per se. Giuliani and then wife Donna Hanover hosted the sessions, usually on weekends, with their key friends and "kitchen cabinet." The talk was often about the campaign, and Mukasey was there, according to these sources.

Mukasey's family worked in Rudy's campaigns:

Mukasey's stepson Marc Saroff (he has since changed his name to Mukasey) is listed on the 1989 campaign filings as a "staff assistant," and Mukasey's wife Susan also worked at the campaign headquarters in 1989 and 1993. The judge himself was seen around the headquarters in 1993, and joined Giuliani in his election-night suite in 1989, swapping stories with him about Al D'Amato, the then U.S. senator who was viewed with great hostility by Giuliani partisans.

Here's what Mukasey said in his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire:

In his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Mukasey was asked if he had "ever played a role in a political campaign," and he listed only the current Giuliani presidential campaign and his activities as part of the New York Jewish Coalition for Reagan/Bush in 1984, both of which occurred when he was not a federal judge.

Barrett writes:

his involvement in the Giuliani's 1993 race, and even his appearance at the 1989 victory party, appear inconsistent with the judicial rules of conduct, which bar a judge from "engaging in any partisan political activity" or "attending any political gatherings." While Mukasey's role as a casual campaign adviser, and his appearance at a campaign event like a victory party, may seem benign, they are troubling signs of political involvement that take on larger dimensions only because of the great power to influence an election that he will soon enjoy. And if he went beyond the strict interpretation of the guidelines as a judge, might he not do the same as attorney general?

Mukasey and Giuliani have been two peas in a pod in their views on waterboarding and torture:

If Mukasey is in agreement with his potential boss in the White House, he also appears to be on the same page as Giuliani, who has come out in favor of "enhanced" and "aggressive" interrogation techniques. Like Mukasey, Giuliani has also refused to rule out waterboarding. Asked recently if the aggressive technique was torture, Giuliani invoked Mukasey: "I don't believe the attorney general designate was in any way unclear about torture." Reminded that Mukasey said he didn't know whether waterboarding was torture, Giuliani replied: "Well, I'm not sure it is either. . . . It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."

Similarly, Mukasey's suggestion that the president could violate a federal statute if he deems it necessary to defend the country is in sync with Giuliani, who repeatedly ridiculed Mitt Romney for indicating that he might talk to lawyers before going to war with Iran.

The remainder of the article deals with Giuliani and Bernie Kerik, mostly more details of topics previously reported.

The question for Giuliani regarding Kerik is how he spent years ignoring alarms about the man he placed in one top law-enforcement job and then tried to install at the helm of our national defense. While some elements of what Giuliani knew about Kerik have come out in previous news accounts, what follows is an untold chronology that could haunt the presidential candidate, particularly if Kerik goes to trial before Election Day.

Marc Mukasey, as partner at Bracewell-Giuliani, has been tapped for the role of running interference between Giuliani and Kerik.

Marc Mukasey's task to keep an eye on Kerik's criminal investigation shows Giuliani's concern with how the legal fate of his former NYPD and correction commissioner could affect his presidential campaign, sources said.

A source familiar with the Kerik probe said Mukasey's role in monitoring the Kerik case is "obviously trying to distance Giuliani from all [the allegations about Kerik], although obviously it all occurred on Giuliani's watch."

In other Kerik news today, his lawyer Ken Breen's old lawfirm, Texas based Fulbright and Jaworski, is suing him for $200k in unpaid legal bills.

It looks like a Kerik indictment, if it comes, will be on or before November 17.

Unfortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee members were asleep at the wheel when they questioned Mukasey. They were too focused on waterboarding and not focused enough on these very troubling issues of conflict of interest and partisan loyalty. While Mukasey may not have a strong loyalty to Bush, the same does not appear to be the case with respect to Rudy. Should Rudy get elected and keep Mukasey as Attorney General, it will be too late to ask these questions then.

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    Again, the Voice does some bang-up Real (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by scribe on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 02:13:16 PM EST
    reporting, putting the rest of the TradMed to shame (again).
    While I agree with you that the SJC has dropped the ball on questioning Hamlet Mukasey about his (and his son's) conflicts of interest re Rudy Cue Ball, I will give them a little break by noting that the stories are only now popping to the surface (like bodies in shallow graves)....

    Here's something I wrote 10/22/07 (i.e., 9 days ago), regarding Rudy Cue Ball, Kerik's coming indictment and trial, Mukasey and conflicts of interest:

    This time, Rudy's law partner, Mukasey (son of the AG nominee) is preventing Kerik's defense team from interviewing people who have talked to the feds.  The people being blocked are employees of Giuliani Partners who had close dealings with Kerik;  effectively, the defense is being precluded from building a case at

    This came from an article in the New York Post, one of those where the reporters and editors prove they indeed can write in complete sentences, if and when they want to.  (If Josh Marshall links to this Post article, I will....)

    So, in effect, the son of the AG nominee is preventing a putative federal defendant from interviewing persons who (both spoke to the feds and may have defense-usable information), to further the interests of the son's law partner and presidential nominee, who just happens to also look to be the son's father's putative

    The lines in the conflict-of-interest chart make a wiring diagram look simple.

    And, in case you're wondering why Bushie's been so silent on the 2008 preznit race - it has already been decided that Giuliani will win the nomination, regardless of the religious base or any other Republican constituency.  The whole debate and campaign dog and pony show is more to make dissidents (A) expose themselves for later purging and (B) keep the machinery of the base moving and working, entertained and energized for the big push coming next year.  

    That push will feature torture-driven show trials of terrorists (after the convention),
    a victory in Iraq (we'll declare the surge worked, pull out and see the peace of Iraqis taking care of their own business), and a pullout of US troops by way of Iran, all in time for them to have homecoming parades before election day, with George and Rudy on the reviewing stand.

    And no one took me seriously when I said "Mukasey is the first appointment of the Giuliani administration" or "He's only there because he's deemed to be a loyal Bushie" (not my exact words, but....).

    This is another one of those instances where I'd rather have been wrong....

    Mukasey, Rudy and Bernie Kerik, oh my! (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:23:57 PM EST
    that's merely cream in the coffee. the fact that this bozo can't say, unequivocally, what torture is, pretty much says it all about him.