Justice Department spokesman Gina Talamona would not comment when asked if Mukasey suffered a stroke. She had no information about his medical history, but promised to get a HIPPA form signed soon so she could review the incident.
Mukasey opened his speech on terrorism with a wry remark about expecting the mood at the conservative Federalist Society dinner to be "somber or sober." Then all hell broke loose. He slumped over the podium about 15 minutes later after slurring his words and was seen swaying and shaking slightly. Drool dripped from his mouth. His face turned a bright red. His limbs shook. No doubt, this was a terrorist attack of the Black-Tie kind.
Three or four men in suits, depending on your definition of men and/or suits, rushed on stage and caught him at the lectern. One or two of the men yelled, "You got him?"
"Oh, no, no!" people in the audience cried out as Mukasey fell. "Oh, my God!"
Mukasey, a retired federal judge, is President Bush's third attorney general. The flinty (flinty?) New Yorker has said the job initially discouraged him, and he has scaled back his public appearances in recent weeks.
A former prosecutor who saw Mukasey hours earlier described the attorney general as tired-looking and drawn. "Frankly, I thought he was going to die in front of me. He told me he was just old and sick. He likes to kid."
Justice spokesman Peter Carr said Mukasey did not transfer his power to Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip and would find out why this had not happened as a matter of national security. Some speculate Mukaskey did not do so because he was unconscious.
"The attorney general is conscious, conversant and alert," Carr said after Mukasey was hospitalized. "His vital statistics are strong and he is in good spirits. Other than collapsing for no reason whatsoever, he is in perfect physical condition."
After collapsing, Mukasey lay on the stage for about 10 minutes being attended to by his FBI security detail and medical personnel at the dinner, said eyewitness Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Though he lost consciousness initially, Mukasey appeared to be awake when he was taken from the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in northwest Washington, she said.
"It was hard to watch such a thing," Thernstrom said. "It was horrible. It was as if the man were 67-years old with a serious medical conditon late at night."
A Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jack Daly, who was also at the dinner, said in an e-mail to colleagues sent at 10:20 p.m. EST: "AG Mukasey collapsed in the middle of his keynote address at tonight's fed-soc dinner. He is still on stage after ten minutes and his security detail has called 911. The paramedics just arrived. Roger Red Robin."
Twenty minutes later, Daly added in another e-mail: "Red Robin. Mukasey did regain consciousness before he was taken away. That's a wrap, Red Robin."
President George W. Bush, scheduled to attend a weekend financial summit in Peru, was informed about Mukasey's collapse, press secretary Dana Perino said.
"I have looked into the mind of the president, and I can assure you the president has him in his thoughts. He will be kept apprised and hopes that he will be back up and at 'em again soon," she said. "If not up and at 'em, then, at least, up and about. If he is neither, the president is prepared to replace him quickly."