White House Floats Names For AG Pick

White House officials have begun quietly circulating among key Senators a short list of potential replacements for outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, one that appears aimed at avoiding a lengthy confirmation fight with Senate Democrats, according to senior GOP and Democratic aides.

Although several Republican leadership aides said the White House has indicated President Bush likely will unveil his choice on Sept. 17 -- the last day of Gonzales' tenure -- White House counsel Fred Fielding has been making the rounds in the Senate the past several days and met with Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday afternoon. Although Leahy would not comment on the meeting prior to speaking with Fielding, he did say that Bush's top legal adviser has reached out to numerous Judiciary Committee Senators to vet names and gauge feedback over possible nominees.

Fielding also has discussed possible replacements of Gonzales with GOP leaders in the Senate, aides said.

According to senior Republican and Democratic leadership aides, the White House has floated six potential replacements -- former Solicitor General Ted Olson; former Attorney General Bill Barr; former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger; D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman; former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson; and Michael Mukasey, a former judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Mukasey -- who was recommended by Senate Judiciary member Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- is considered a long shot. Democratic sources said Olson and Terwilliger, both well-known, strongly conservative Republicans, likely would run into significant opposition from Democrats, while Thompson is believed not to want to leave his corporate job at PepsiCo.

Although members of both parties likely would be receptive to Silberman, aides in both leadership camps cautioned that because confirming him would open a seat on the crucial D.C. Circuit Court -- providing Bush a chance to nominate another federal judge to a lifetime appointment -- Democrats could end up blocking him. Nevertheless, a senior Democratic leadership aide said Silberman would "have a good chance of confirmation."

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