Sanders says he won’t support Mukasey nomination

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general is likely to happen without his support.

Sanders is one of the first Senators to publicly oppose the nominee. Trimmel Gomes reports from Washington.

(Gomes) Sanders says he will vote against President Bush’s choice to head the Justice Department.

(Sanders) "Mr. Mukasey has not assured me that he will be a defender of our constitutional rights which is what an Attorney General has got to be."

(Gomes) Mukasey is a retired federal judge who has ruled in a number of high profile terror trials. But in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Mukasey refused to say whether water-boarding — a technique that simulates drowning — was a form of torture. Sanders says the country needs an Attorney General who understands torture is unacceptable.

(Sanders) "I want to make sure that we have an attorney general who can explain to the president what the constitution of this country is about."

(Gomes) Sanders was also troubled by the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

(Sanders) "All over this world right now people are saying what is going on in the United States? And when we deny people basic rights that are guaranteed under the Geneva convention I think we look bad in front of the whole world."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont says Mukasey is a man with experience and will bring a lot to the Justice Department.

(Leahy) "He knows what’s happened with the department of justice gave up its independence. Everything I’ve heard from him, I hear a man who’s not willing to give up his independence to anybody."

(Gomes) Leahy says he will get clearer answers from Muksaey on what constitutes torture before scheduling a committee vote. Committee members have until Thursday to submit more questions to Mukasey, but for now, Senator Sanders says he’s heard enough.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Trimmel Gomes on Capitol Hill.

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