By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
In 1985, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was coming under intense criticism for his aggressive tactics in prosecuting organized crime, including his use of mass trials, his habit of holding defendants without bail and his practice of subpoenaing defense lawyers to testify at their clients' grand jury hearings, which lawyers argued was a violation of client confidentiality.
Springing to Giuliani's defense was a former colleague, Michael B. Mukasey, who argued in a strongly worded opinion piece that Giuliani's tough tactics were justified to defeat an enemy that, he said, was far more dangerous and powerful than Giuliani's critics were willing to acknowledge.
"The Mafia exists. It is not the creation of novelists or journalists. It has exacted a toll of misery that would shame the Inquisition and a toll in treasure that would embarrass the Pentagon," Mukasey wrote in a New York Times op-ed article.
Mukasey's public defense of Giuliani was but one example of the strong and lasting bond between President Bush's nominee for attorney general and the man leading in the GOP polls to replace Bush. Mukasey and Giuliani became friends while working in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office in the early 1970s, becoming part of a close-knit group of ambitious young lawyers who together tackled police corruption, drug dealers and political self-dealing.
In his memoir, Giuliani says he bonded with Mukasey over their work together in building a case against Bertram L. Podell, a three-term Brooklyn congressman who had been given illegal payments to obtain a route for an airline. To help Giuliani prepare for the trial in 1974, Mukasey played Podell in a rehearsal and did such a good job that Giuliani eviscerated Podell in cross-examination, causing him to drop his glasses in nervousness one day and decide to plead guilty the next.
When Giuliani was considering a job offer from the New York law firm where Mukasey was working in 1977, Mukasey anonymously faxed a prank letter to Giuliani questioning his friend's qualifications for the job. "Giuliani showed me the letter," former federal judge Harold Tyler, a mentor to both men, recalled in a 1995 Newsday profile of Mukasey. "I said, 'Do you think this is a joke?' And Giuliani said, 'Yes, but I'm not sure.' So he called Mukasey and said, 'Damn it, I am qualified.' And he listed the reasons why. It was only then that Giuliani realized he should take the offer."
In 1994, Giuliani selected Mukasey, then a federal judge, to preside over his inauguration as mayor. The ties only strengthened after Giuliani left City Hall. Mukasey's son, Marc, a former assistant U.S. attorney himself, works as a partner at Giuliani's consulting firm, and Giuliani named Mukasey and his son to one of his presidential campaign advisory committees.
Mukasey and Giuliani "are two people who are extremely close -- extremely, extremely close -- and everybody knows that," said New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat. "This is a wonderful thing for Rudy Giuliani."