Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
The beleaguered attorney general has few defenders.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 4/23/2007 11:10:03 AM ET 2007-04-23T15:10:03

Pundits and politicians are floating ideas about who should replace Alberto Gonzales, if the attorney general decides to quit.

After his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the speculation about Gonzales departure has only gotten more intense.

Judiciary Committee Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, who last week urged Gonzales to quit, has his own short list of nominees Sunday in a Fox News interview:

  • Larry Thompson, former number two man of the Justice Department in President Bush’s first term.
  • James Comey, who served as deputy in the Justice Department after Thompson left.
  • Retired federal trial judge Michael Mukasey

“My guess is that they would get through the Senate very, very quickly,” Schumer said of his proposed Gonzales replacements. Here’s a brief profile of each:

Larry Thompson: Now senior vice president for government affairs and general counsel of Pepsico, Thompson was the second-ranking official in the Department of Justice for the first four years of the Bush administration.

Larry Thompson
Washington Post file
He led the department's Enron investigation, and was responsible for corporate fraud prosecutions.

Before his Justice Department stint, Thompson was a partner with the Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding.

He’s an old pal of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and appeared as a witness for Thomas during his Senate confirmation hearings.

He’d be the first black attorney general.

Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images file

James Comey: Comey left the Justice Department in late 2005 to take the job of general counsel of Lockheed Martin, the defense firm.

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During his two years as Deputy Attorney General, Comey reportedly clashed with Bush over the use of a National Security Agency surveillance program.

Newsweek reported last year that when Comey was acting attorney general in 2004, he opposed an extension of the surveillance program.

According to the Newsweek story, Bush derisively referred to Comey as "Cuomey" or "Cuomo," an apparent reference to former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who had a hard time making up his mind whether to run for president in 1992.

When Ashcroft recused himself from the Valerie Plame investigation, Comey appointed his friend Patrick Fitzgerald to be the special prosecutor.

For these reasons, it seems that while a Comey nomination would be pleasing to Schumer, it would be unlikely move for Bush.

Prior to becoming number two man at the Justice Department in 2003, Comey served as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York for a year and a half.

From 1996 through 2001, Comey served as a federal prosecutor in Virginia, where he handled the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing case, arising out of the 1996 attack on a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia in which 19 airmen were killed.

Michael Mukasey: The veteran lawyer and judge has spent most of his life in New York.

He was a federal prosecutor there in the 1970s and become a friend of fellow prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani during that time.

After more than ten years of private law practice, President Reagan named him to the federal bench in 1987; he served for nearly 20 years.

Mukasey won notoriety for presiding over the 1995 trial of 10 Islamic conspirators — including blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman — who were convicted of a plot to blow up the United Nations and other New York landmarks.

According to news accounts, he had 24-hour protection by U.S. marshals during and after that trial.

Eighty people have served as attorney general since the beginning of the republic; only two nominees for attorney general have ever been rejected by the Senate.

Apart from those on Schumer’s list, here are some other names that Justice Department watchers in Washington float as potential successors:

William Barr: Now the executive vice president and general counsel of the telecommunications company Verizon, Barr served in the administration of Bush’s father as attorney general from 1991 to 1993.

He has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in strong support of the current policy of detaining al Qaida suspects at Guantanamo Navy Base.

As attorney general, Barr was a critic of the independent counsel law, which has since expired.

“Frankly, I don't think prosecutors should be independent,” he said in 1992. “That's the basic difficulty of the statute.”

In 1992, Congressional Democrats assailed Barr for rebuffing their demands for an independent counsel in a bank-fraud case involving loans extended to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in the 1990s.

In the early 1980s, Barr served on the White House Domestic Policy Staff under President Reagan and in the 1970s, he worked as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst and later as CIA assistant legislative counsel so he is conversant with terrorism, espionage and secrecy matters.

Ted Olson
Getty Images file

Theodore Olson: A partner in the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Olson was the Solicitor General, the administration’s advocate before the Supreme Court, from 2001 to 2004.

Olson has argued 43 cases before the high court, the most famous being the 2000 Florida election cases. His skill in arguing those cases helped make Bush president.

In the Reagan administration Olson served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel and was the target of independent counsel Alexia Morrison after House Democrats accused Olson of giving false testimony to a House committee during an investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Olson filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the independent counsel law. He lost in the Supreme Court’s Morrison v. Olson decision in 1988. But Morrison announced at the end of 1988 that she would not file charges against him.

Olson’s wife Barbara was one of the 58 passengers on board American Airlines Flight 77 that was hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001 and crashed into the Pentagon.

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