President Bush has settled on Michael B. Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and will announce his selection Monday, a source familiar with the president's decision said Sunday evening.
Mukasey, who has handled terrorist cases in the U.S. legal system for more than a decade, would become the nation's top law enforcement officer.
The 66-year-old New York native, who is a legal adviser to GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, would take charge of a Justice Department where morale is low following months of investigations into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and Gonzales' sworn testimony on the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program.
Bush supporters say Mukasey, who was chief judge of the high-profile courthouse in Manhattan for six years, has impeccable credentials, is a strong, law-and-order jurist, especially on national security issues, and will restore confidence in the Justice Department.
Bush critics see the Mukasey nomination as evidence of Bush's weakened political clout as he heads into the final 15 months of his presidency. It's unclear how Senate Democrats will view Mukasey's credentials, but early indications are that he will face less opposition than a more hardline, partisan candidate like Ted Olson.
Mukasey has received past endorsements from Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is from Mukasey's home state. And in 2005, the liberal Alliance for Justice put Mukasey on a list of four judges who, if chosen for the Supreme Court, would show the president's commitment to nominating people who could be supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
Last week, some Senate Democrats threatened to block the confirmation of Olson, who represented Bush before the Supreme Court in the contested 2000 election. Democratic senators have theorized that Bush might nominate Mukasey, in part, because he wanted to avoid a bruising confirmation battle.