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Sources: Former judge will seek to replace Alberto Gonzales

  • Story Highlights
  • Mukasey will accept nomination for attorney general, sources say
  • Michael B. Mukasey was chief judge for the Southern District of New York
  • Ronald Reagan appointed him to federal bench in 1988
  • The White House would not comment on the matter Sunday
  • Next Article in Politics »
From John King
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former federal judge Michael Mukasey has accepted President Bush's offer to replace Alberto Gonzales as U.S. attorney general, two government sources familiar with the president's selection said Sunday.

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Michael B. Mukasey presided over many high-profile trials as chief judge for the Southern District of New York.

The White House would not comment on the report Sunday night. But Mukasey's nomination as head of the Justice Department is likely to be announced Monday, the sources said.

Mukasey, 66, was nominated to the bench in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan and, until September 2006, was chief judge for the Southern District of New York -- a high-profile U.S. court district that's one of the nation's busiest.

Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whose 18-month tenure was beset with controversy, is scheduled to leave office Monday. Solicitor General Paul Clement, the Justice Department's No. 3 official, will be acting attorney general until a successor is confirmed.

Gonzales announced his resignation in August after months of congressional grilling over the firings of federal prosecutors and allegations that he had misled Congress about the controversy surrounding the surveillance program.

Justice Department officials' initial description of the firings as "performance-related" provoked an outcry from the fired lawyers -- some of whom raised allegations that they were dismissed for political reasons.

Bush said at the time that critics had unfairly run Gonzales out of office.

A leading Gonzales critic, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, said Sunday that Mukasey is "a lot better than some of the other names mentioned" as potential replacements.

"While he is certainly conservative, Judge Mukasey seems to be the kind of nominee who would put rule of law first and show independence from the White House, our most important criteria," said Schumer, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Schumer said Mukasey will face questions about "important and sensitive issues," such as the controversy over the Bush administration's warrantless electronic surveillance program and the appointments of U.S. attorneys. Video See reactions to the news about Mukasey »

But he said the former judge "has the potential to become a consensus nominee."

Leading Democrats have warned the White House in recent days that a nomination of another potential candidate, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, would provoke a fierce confirmation battle.

Olson represented Bush during the legal fight over the 2000 Florida recount, arguing Bush's case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. He also provided assistance to the legal team representing Paula Jones during her sexual harassment case against former President Bill Clinton.

Olson publicly supported independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation of Clinton and his wife, Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton -- now considered the Democratic presidential front-runner for 2008.

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The probe was opened to look into allegations of financial improprieties by the couple while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas. That element of the investigation yielded no charges, but Clinton was ultimately accused of lying under oath about a sexual relationship with a former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The House of Representatives impeached him over the allegations in 1998, but the Senate acquitted him in 1999. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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