(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s not sure if he’ll vote for Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey.
Leahy, who chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee, says he has some serious concerns that Mukasey doesn’t oppose the use of torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists.
VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Last week, Leahy’s committee held two days of hearings on the Mukasey nomination. Leahy says Mukasey’s testimony from one day to the other couldn’t have been more different.
After the first hearing, Leahy said he was pleased that Mukasey testified that he wants to be an independent Attorney General and that Mukasey would resign if asked by the White House to support any actions that he believed were unconstitutional.
But on the second day, Leahy says Mukasey seemed to backtrack on his firm stand against the use of torture and whether or not the President has the authority to ignore certain laws in the interest of national security:
(Leahy) "I’m especially concerned on his views on torture. If there’s one thing that has hurt the United States worldwide it has been our seeming ambivalence on the question of torture – especially if it’s the United States doing the torture."
Leahy says he was most concerned that Mukasey didn’t rule out the use of an interrogation method known as waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, as a way to get information from a suspected terrorist:
(Leahy)"Now virtually everybody in the military would consider that torture. He didn’t want to answer one way or the other insofar as he has to rule on what is legal and what is not – that bothers me a great deal."
Leahy says he’s sent Mukasey some additional questions on behalf of the committee to help clarify the nominee’s view on torture.
Leahy thinks the future of this nomination hinges on the answers:
(Leahy)"I’m not going to even bring it to a vote until I get some kind of a definitive answer. And his answer I think is going to very much determine what my vote is – and, I suspect, what the vote of others is going to be."
Vermont’s other U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders, says he’ll vote against the Mukasey nomination because Sanders says Mukasey "demonstrated a disregard for civil liberties" with his testimony at the confirmation hearings last week.
For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.