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Noel Francisco could oversee Mueller’s probe after Rosenstein, has Steve Bannon’s endorsement

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Noel Francisco
Noel Francisco.
Mark
Wilson/Getty Images


  • Solicitor General Noel Francisco would oversee special
    counsel Robert Mueller’s probe if Deputy Attorney General Rod
    Rosenstein departs his position.
  • Francisco was previously backed by former White House
    chief strategist Steve Bannon to replace Attorney General Jeff
    Sessions.

The man who would oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation should Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
depart from his position has the full backing of President Donald
Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Bannon, in an interview with Business
Insider last month
, endorsed Solicitor General Noel Francisco
to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it was rumored
that Trump could replace the head of the Justice Department after
the November elections.

“I think the solicitor general has done a pretty
extraordinary job and is someone who will clearly be in the mix,
but that’s for the president to decide,” Bannon said.

Francisco now finds himself at the center of discussion
about what happens should Rosenstein leave his position after a
number of conflicting reports were published Monday:

  • Some said that Rosenstein had signaled that he would
    resign his position.
  • Others said he was not going to resign but expected to be
    fired on Monday.
  • Neither came to fruition Monday as anticipated, but
    Rosenstein instead
    will
     meet with Trump on Thursday, White House press
    secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

On Friday, The New York Times and
other outlets reported that
Rosenstein discussed invoking the 25th Amendment
and removing Trump from office in the days the immediately
followed the president firing FBI Director James Comey.
Rosenstein also mentioned secretly recording Trump, The Times
reported.

Rosenstein disputed the account, saying it was inaccurate,
adding that “there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.” A
Justice Department spokeswoman told The Times that Rosenstein’s
comment about recording Trump was made sarcastically.

If Rosenstein does ultimately vacate the post, Francisco is next in line to
oversee the Mueller probe. The solicitor general served in
President George W. Bush’s administration and later at the Jones
Day law firm.

Francisco authored a 2016 op-ed in which he took
aim at Comey for his handling of the investigation into 2016
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a
private emails server while she led the State
Department. Earlier this year, Francisco
raised some eyebrows when he
intervened in a Supreme Court case involving the Securities and
Exchange Commission to assert Trump’s ability to hire and fire
all “officers of the” US.

“The Constitution gives the president what the framers saw as the
traditional means of ensuring accountability: the power to
oversee executive officers through removal,” Francisco wrote.
“The president is accordingly authorized under our constitutional
system to remove all principal officers, as well as all ‘inferior
officers’ he has appointed.”

Francisco was photographed in February
dining with Rosenstein and Sessions hours after Trump blasted his
attorney general. The photo was interpreted by some as signaling
solidarity.

“I don’t think we know enough to be confident,” Eric Columbus, a
former senior official in President Barack Obama’s Justice
Department, told Politico of Francisco. “I
doubt he would fire Mueller but could limit him, which has always
been the greater concern.”

Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government
Ethics under Obama and Trump, tweeted Monday that Francisco
can’t oversee the Mueller probe because of his past work for
Jones Day, which is representing members of the Trump campaign in
the Mueller investigation.

“DOJ is saying Noel Francisco would take over the investigation,”
Shaub tweeted. “DOJ is wrong unless the White House has secretly
issued a waiver of Executive Order 13770, which bars Francisco
from participating in the Mueller investigation due to Jones
Day’s representation of the Trump campaign.”

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