WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Michael Mukasey took office as U.S. attorney general on Friday, the Justice Department said, after the Senate confirmed him despite concerns about his stance on torture.
Mukasey, 66, takes over as chief U.S. law enforcement officer and succeeds Alberto Gonzales, who was resigned under bipartisan pressure in September with critics questioning his competency and honesty.
Senate lawmakers initially praised Mukasey, predicting the retired judge and former prosecutor would renew confidence in a scandal-rocked Justice Department.
But many Democrats turned against him after he declined to denounce as illegal torture an interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning, known as waterboarding.
Enough Democrats joined Republicans to approve Mukasey's nomination Thursday night by a vote of 53-40.
Mukasey took the oath of office after flying down from New York, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. He was expected to receive briefings on national security and wiretapping before heading home for the weekend.
He will start full-time next Tuesday, Roehrkasse said.
A U.S. District Court judge in New York for 18 years, Mukasey presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
In a more recent case, Mukasey found that the government had a right to hold U.S. citizen Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant without charging him with a crime, but ordered the administration to allow Padilla to meet with a lawyer.
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