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An old friend joins Giuliani in a spotlight

The ties run deep between Rudolph W. Giuliani and the attorney general nominee, Michael B. Mukasey.
/ Source: The New York Times

They were together early in their professional lives, as federal prosecutors working on corruption cases and later when they were engaged in private practice at the same firm, where they shared a fondness for practical jokes.

Then the careers of the two lawyers took off, and after one of them, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was elected the 107th mayor of New York, he went to the apartment of the other, Michael B. Mukasey, by then a federal judge, for a private swearing-in ceremony on New Year’s Eve.

“Your achievements have been such that neither I nor anyone else I know could match them,” Mr. Mukasey wrote in a letter to Mr. Giuliani a few days after the new mayor’s 1994 inauguration. Speaking as well for his wife, and referring to Mr. Giuliani’s wife at the time, Donna Hanover, Mr. Mukasey added, “Please also know that my admiration and love, and Susan’s, for both of you and your family is without limit.”

Now the two friends are seeking even greater heights: President Bush has chosen Mr. Mukasey to be the next attorney general, and Mr. Giuliani is running to succeed Mr. Bush.

If Mr. Mukasey is confirmed, he stands to lead the Justice Department at a time when prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are investigating a case with sensitive political implications for Mr. Giuliani. At issue is whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Giuliani’s former police commissioner and business partner, Bernard B. Kerik.

Though the authorities were initially reviewing only the possibility of tax evasion, and of offenses stemming from statements Mr. Kerik made to background investigators when Mr. Bush chose him to be secretary of homeland security, they have since cast a much wider net, examining a broader range of possible crimes, people briefed on the matter have said.

Ties run deep
The ties between Mr. Mukasey and Mr. Giuliani continue to run deep. Before Mr. Mukasey’s selection to be attorney general, he and his family donated at least $10,000 to Mr. Giuliani’s presidential campaign. And he and his son Marc, who works for the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, were named this summer to the Giuliani campaign’s judicial advisory committee.

Tony Fratto, deputy White House press secretary, said the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, called Mr. Giuliani on Sunday — two days after Mr. Mukasey had been offered the post of attorney general, and the day before Mr. Bush made the announcement — to inform him of the decision. Mr. Giuliani called Mr. Mukasey to congratulate him that day, a campaign aide said.

When Mr. Mukasey was a federal district judge in Manhattan, his close ties to Mr. Giuliani led him to recuse himself at times from some of the many cases involving Giuliani administration policies that landed in the courts, as the city pursued approaches that occasionally alarmed civil libertarians.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, recalled appearing before Judge Mukasey when his group sued the city over a new policy denying sound permits for rallies in Times Square, a ban the civil liberties union said was drafted by Mr. Giuliani to prevent a raucous group known as the Black Israelites from preaching there.

Mr. Dunn said he had asked Judge Mukasey to recuse himself because of his relationship with the mayor, who was a defendant in the suit. “Mukasey’s response was, ‘Do you want to know the last time I had dinner with him?’ ” he recalled. But he added that Mr. Mukasey had in fact recused himself, and the city later withdrew its policy.

Judge Mukasey did not always do so, though. In 2000, he upheld a Giuliani administration policy allowing the police to seize the cars of people charged with drunken driving, dismissing a suit brought by the Legal Aid Society. The decision was appealed, and in 2002, after Mr. Giuliani left office, a federal appeals court ruled that the policy had unlawfully denied the owners of the cars an opportunity to challenge the seizures promptly. Judge Mukasey later ordered the city to adopt a hearing process for impounded cars.

Pre-mayoral career
The nomination of Mr. Mukasey has cast a spotlight on the pre-mayoral career that Mr. Giuliani built at the Justice Department in both Washington and New York, a career that left him with a number of important allies proving useful as he runs for president.

He and Mr. Mukasey both have reputations for taking a tough line on terrorism, sharing a broad view of the government’s right to conduct surveillance. And at times, they sound very similar in their public pronouncements about law enforcement powers.

As mayor, Mr. Giuliani repeatedly called for police officers accused of wrongdoing to be given “the benefit of the doubt.” In 2004, Judge Mukasey wrote a defense of the USA Patriot Act in The Wall Street Journal that concluded that the government was entitled, “at least in the first instance, to receive from its citizens the benefit of the doubt.”

Their ties filtered down to their personal lives as they climbed the heights in their respective careers. As mayor, Mr. Giuliani paid a visit in 1998 to the Ramaz School, a yeshiva on the Upper East Side where Mr. Mukasey’s wife was headmistress and from which Mr. Mukasey graduated in 1959. The mayor, a City Hall news release reported, was serenaded by children singing “New York, New York” and greeted with a five-tiered cake in honor of the centennial of the consolidation of the city’s five boroughs.

The two men loved pranks. When Mr. Giuliani tried to join Mr. Mukasey’s firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, in the late 1970s, Mr. Mukasey faxed him a phony letter that appeared to be to one of the senior partners, listing the reasons Mr. Giuliani was unprepared for the job, according to an interview that one partner, Harold R. Tyler Jr., gave to Newsday in 1995. The letter spurred Mr. Giuliani to protest to Mr. Tyler, a mentor of his, about his qualifications and helped persuade him to take the job.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting from New York, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Washington.