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Mukasey vows to fire aides who talk with White House

Michael Mukasey has made stern pledges. Michael Mukasey has made stern pledges.

WASHINGTON - President Bush's pick for attorney general has promised to fire any Justice Department employee who discusses sensitive cases with the White House without his approval, a leading Democratic senator said yesterday.

Earlier this week, retired federal judge Michael Mukasey told another senator he would also fire employees who failed to report being asked about cases by politicians, such as elected lawmakers.

The pledges were part of Mukasey's attempts to soothe critics, including those in Congress, who believe the Justice Department has become too close to White House politics.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday, chairman Patrick Leahy recounted asking Mukasey during a private meeting about White House meddling in criminal and civil cases.

"And he said, 'I'll tell you right now, if anybody calls any member of the Justice Department, if I'm attorney general they'll be given two numbers: It'll be the telephone number of the attorney general and the telephone number of the deputy attorney general. And they'll be told that if they want to talk to anybody, these are the only two people who can talk about this case. And we may well not talk about it,' " Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, quoted Mukasey.

Mukasey continued by adding that if a Justice Department employee discusses cases "with somebody outside, whether from the White House or members of Congress or something else like that, they will be fired," Leahy recalled. "That's the kind of attitude I like."

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