Leahy: Work of Justice Department must be independent of White House influence

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is telling Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey his confirmation could hinge on demonstrating he’ll keep White House influence out of Justice Department decisions.

In a letter to President Bush’s nominee, the Vermont Democrat says a key test would be Mukasey’s willingness to answer questions on a litany of issues the White House won’t. Those range from warrantless wiretaps to whether federal prosecutors were fired to influence the 2006 elections.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding has declared those details off-limits under executive privilege.

Leahy still has not scheduled confirmation hearings even though Mukasey’s nomination is expected to draw few objections.

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