WASHINGTON (CNN) - At a rare Justice Department event featuring a mix of smiling Democratic and Republican luminaries, Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday praised his GOP predecessor Michael Mukasey for "skill, honor, and great integrity" during his 15-month tenure.
Without mentioning the acrimony and bitter political battles that peaked during during two tumultuous years under then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who preceded Mukasey, Holder credited Mukasey for agreeing to take the job when "the Justice Department was engulfed in turmoil."
"I can say we are continuing the work you started to restore the Justice Department. You leave a mark here of patriotism, integrity and honor," Holder concluded.
Holder hosted the event at the ornate Great Hall to honor Mukasey with the traditional unveiling of the former attorney general's commissioned portrait, which will hang among the 81 past attorneys general outside Holder's office.
"I would not change my time here with any one of them," Mukasey told the crowd. "Not for my 15 months, not for even 15 days," he said. Mukasey said he felt honored and humbled to serve with the career government attorneys.
Many Republicans including former attorneys general Ed Meese, Richard Thornburgh and William Barr returned to the Justice Department along with a throng of legal officials of the Bush Administration who mingled comfortably with Obama administration and Holder appointees, and a large contingent of senior non-partisan career Justice lawyers.
The event marked a sharp departure from what has frequently been a politically-charged atmosphere surrounding the Justice Department for nearly 20 years.
One veteran Justice official recalled the last warm bipartisan gathering came in 2001 when then-President George W. Bush was on hand to host the Kennedy family and friends, and name the main Justice building for the late former attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy.