If Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post, the man Democrats fear most would oversee the Russia probe.
That man is Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the No. 3 at the Department of Justice who previously served as a prominent conservative lawyer. He also previously clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and is reportedly a strong supporter of Trump’s agenda.
He worked for the DOJ under former President George W. Bush before moving back to private practice. Francisco is also no fan of special counsels, and has argued that a president has the constitutional authority to shape the bureaucracy around him.
This will not sit well with Democrats.
On Friday, the New York Times published a piece claiming Rosenstein implied he would wear a “wire” to secretly record Trump and floated the idea of galvanizing Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Rumors that Rosenstein would be fired kicked into overdrive on Monday when he took a trip to the White House. Rosenstein has not been fired, but he is scheduled to meet with Trump again on Thursday — raising new questions about his tenure at the DOJ.
In the event that Rosenstein is canned, Francisco would become the acting deputy attorney general and oversee Mueller’s probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions leads the DOJ. When Sessions recused himself last year from overseeing the Russia investigation, department rules indicated that Rosenstein, the No. 2, would oversee the Mueller probe. If Rosenstein resigns, then Francisco would move from No. 3 to No. 2.
According to Vox.com Francisco could allow Mueller to continue the investigation, apply more restrictions on the special counsel’s mandate, or he could arguably completely shut it down.
Francisco’s previous cases appear to show that he loathes special counsels.
Here’s what Vox reports:
In 2007, he testified about his views on presidential power during a congressional inquiry into Bush’s politically motivated firing of nine US attorneys. The administration had been reluctant to turn over documents or let officials testify under oath on issues related to mass dismissal of US attorneys. Bush invoked executive privilege to defend his decision.
Francisco appeared before a House committee to defend the administration. He criticized the idea of appointing a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration over this scandal.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for the Department of Justice to appoint” a special counsel, he testified, explaining that “my own personal belief is that when you hand these issues off to the career prosecutors in the public integrity sections in the US attorneys’ offices in the Department of Justice, those attorneys are generally better able to assess whether a case should be pursued.”
While Democrats ardently claim Trump will fire Mueller, despite the president repeatedly saying he will not, Francisco potentially taking over the Mueller probe has made many Democrats uneasy.
He’s a strong conservative, appears to support Trump’s agenda, clerked under arguably one of the most conservative Justice’s in the nation’s history, and has stated he doesn’t like the idea of special counsels.
Time will tell what happens next, but many Democrats are freaking out over this possibility.