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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mukasey Discusses Semantics at ABA Conference

Speaking at the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in New York today, Attorney General Michael Mukasey attempted to alleviate attendees’ concerns that the environment at Justice remains politicized. He told the ABA House of Delegates that “[p]olitics must play no role in either the hiring of career [DOJ] employees or the investigation and prosecution of cases.” His assurances, however, only went so far.

Mr. Mukasey told the delegates that he would not fire any employees who were hired for political reasons because “they did nothing wrong.” While technically correct, many are concerned (particularly in Congress) that federal civil service protections - meant to keep political considerations out of career decisions - will end up handing tenured positions in the department over to potentially partisan operatives.

The attorney general also announced that there will likely be no prosecutions coming down the pike for the improper political considerations used by the department under Alberto Gonzales, stating that “not every violation of the law is a crime.” Does anyone else find it alarming that our nation’s chief law enforcement official seems so willing to play semantics with the definition of a crime?

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