Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy will vote against the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general, a source close to the senator told CNN Friday.
The Vermont Democrat, who is to make an announcement Friday afternoon, is the latest committee Democrat who will oppose Mukasey because of questions about his views on the interrogation technique called “waterboarding” and the president’s power to order electronic surveillance.
“No American should need a classified briefing to determine whether waterboarding is torture,” Leahy will say, according to excerpts from his remarks provided to CNN. “Waterboarding was used at least as long ago as the Spanish Inquisition. We prosecuted Japanese war criminals for waterboarding after World War II.
“I am eager to restore strong leadership and independence to the Department of Justice. I like Michael Mukasey. I wish that I could support his nomination. But I cannot. America needs to be certain and confident of the bedrock principle — deeply embedded in our laws and our values — that no one, not even the president, is above the law.”
Waterboarding involves restraining a suspect and using water to produce the sensation of drowning.
Leahy is the leading voice among Senate Democrats on legal issues, and his opposition could derail Mukasey’s nomination.
The committee is scheduled to take up Mukasey’s nomination Tuesday, but members could put off a vote for a week.
Mukasey told senators this week that he finds waterboarding “repugnant,” but he could not answer whether the technique amounts to torture.