The erosion of public trust in the Justice Department, and the steep decline in morale in its workforce, have been a travesty.  Great harm has been done to a great department, to its people, and to its mission to protect the American people and their constitutional rights, and to guard their safety and security.

The process of restoring that trust begins with these hearings.  Judge Mukasey’s answers will signal whether he will be the people’s Attorney General, or merely the President’s lawyer.  The Justice Department needs more than caretaker leadership over the next year.  It is hard to imagine that Judge Mukasey would have accepted this assignment if that’s all he had in mind.

This second meeting with Judge Mukasey will help me evaluate the dialogue we will have with him beginning today.  It will help put his answers into context.

One issue we discussed yesterday, and that we will explore at the hearings, is torture policy.  In America, we know that torture not only is wrong but that it can be counterproductive.  But this Administration has defined torture down.

American Presidents, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, have been able to stand tall on the principled moral high ground that America has long earned, as they have spoken out against torture and against human rights abuses.  Yet we had to endure the sight of an American President, addressing the United Nations General Assembly just weeks ago, having to limit his remarks about human rights, because the moral high ground has eroded out from under us on this Administration’s watch.

We will need very clear answers from Judge Mukasey about torture policy, and I will expect very clear answers.

I like him.  We’re both former prosecutors.  I want him to succeed.  I even gave him my questions in advance.

And I look forward to hearing more from him at the hearings.