Transcript of Reporters Roundtable Discussion With Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey

WASHINGTON , Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a reporters roundtable discussion with Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey : 10:35 A.M. EST ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Good morning...


ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think what -- I mean I'm sworn to do this job until my term is up. I think cases ought to be decided and brought when they are ready to be decided and brought, regardless of whether a new administration is going to take office or not, and we're going to continue to do that, high-profile, low-profile, mid-profile, and we have.

I don't think that simply because a case is high-profile and there's a new administration coming that that takes away our obligation to continue to serve, and part of continuing to serve is to make decisions, including prosecuting decisions.

QUESTION: When you took over, do you feel you were taking over a damaged department?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I felt when I got here that I found in place some of the most able, superb lawyers I had ever met. And I know that there were allegations, some of which have been discussed in the IG reports, of what went on before.

I was advised by some people 'Bring your own team,' and so on and so forth. I found when I got here that the people who were here, who I had met some, many of whom I appointed, were people I could rely on, and that faith has been fully justified.

I told the department in the Great Hall when I first got here that everybody's job was to do law. That sounds very prosaic, but what I have found is that they have continued to do that regardless of some of the controversy swirling outside, and everybody has remained true to the oath. And it has been a great privilege. I have found people who wanted to me to succeed, and to the extent I have succeeded, it has been partly their doing.

QUESTION: You refer to controversies that were swirling outside. Weren't there controversies swirling inside up to the time you took over?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There may have been, but my feeling when I got here was that I had -- I was able to put in place people who at the department kept the department running.

QUESTION: Senator Leahy has talked about certainly there's -- he says a morale problem with your attorneys here. Do you think he has exaggerated that or is that something that you have had to do deal with and that your successor is going to have to deal with because of the allegations?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: My experience with career attorneys is that they have continued to do their job and do it well. I have visited many components, I have tried to talk to career attorneys, sometimes in the lunch room, sometimes in my visits to the components, and I have found them to be well motivated, well interested in their cases. And to say that there is some sort of heavy cloud hanging over them I think is an exaggeration.

Now I guess you could argue, well, this is sort of the Potemkin village effect, you know, if the tsar goes around and all the happy peasants are down -- I don't think so.

QUESTION: Now you said in May that -- Go ahead, I'm sorry.

In May you told our editorial board that you considered the reports of the morale problems to be one of the great consumer frauds of 2007 and after you issued a statement to the employees -- I believe you acknowledged, the word you used was 'pain.'

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: What?

QUESTION: You issued a statement to employees some months later when the IG reports came out and you seemed to acknowledge that things that the IG had discovered were, you know, some of the political shenanigans and were actually true that had been reported and that may have caused morale problems. That seemed to be what I -- if I was reading your message to the employees correctly, you were saying -- But you still now feel that there was no cloud, there was no morale issue?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think you are talking about two different things. One is the feeling that you are working with a department that is troubled where people are applying rules they shouldn't apply.

Another is to find out that in the past things happened and people are again -- your department is again in the news in an unpleasant way. That creates a morale problem because nobody likes to read those stories. That is very different from saying that you are continuing to function in a setting where you feel that you are not being allowed to make decisions on your merits and where your work is adversely affected because of it.