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Trump could find an ally in Noel Francisco, Rosenstein’s replacement

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noel francisco
Solicitor
General Noel Francisco.


Cliff
Owen/AP



  • If President Donald Trump fires Deputy Attorney General
    Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s rules of succession
    dictate that Solicitor General Noel Francisco would assume the
    post.
  • Francisco’s track record as a lawyer mirrors Trump’s
    rhetoric against intelligence authorities, with cases that
    include rebukes of the FBI and a defense of executive
    authority.

Speculation is swirling that President Donald Trump might replace
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after a New York Times
report published on Friday alleged that the Justice Department
head discussed using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump
from office.

Trump has previously weighed firing
Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election that
has in part charged four Americans once affiliated with Trump’s
campaign or administration.

Justice Department rules dictate that Solicitor General Noel
Francisco, whose track record more closely aligns with Trump’s
ideas and grievances, would assume the post.

Francisco served as White House counsel under George W. Bush and
was a DOJ lawyer until 2005, when he joined Jones Day, where he
worked with several future
Trump appointees, including White House general counsel Don
McGahn
, who is expected to leave the Trump administration
this fall, and took stances against various prosecutions of
public officials.

Trump infamously announced McGahn’s pending departure on
Twitter after a bombshell New York Times article
in August
 reported McGahn had given over 30 hours
of testimony in Mueller’s probe. 

Rosenstein appointed
special counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation of foreign
involvement in the 2016 US election. Since the beginning of the
investigation, Trump has decried the investigation as a “witch
hunt” and violation of authority.

In a 2016 op-ed, Francisco took aim
at then-FBI Director James Comey, who he said had acted in
political interests by watering down an investigation of
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In a case earlier this year with
the Securities and Exchange Commission, Francisco reasserted
Trump’s constitutional ability to hire and fire almost all
federal authorities.

“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.”

If appointed to Rosenstein’s post, Francisco would have the
potential authority to fire Mueller, an authority that has been
widely debated but not officially agreed to, concerning whether
or not it applies to Trump.

Amid calls from conservative media,
Democratic leadership raised
their voices to discourage Trump from firing Rosenstein. The
deputy attorney general has disputed the Times story that also
alleged he had discussed wearing a wire to record the president.

Democrats have reportedly developed a plan to insulate
the Russia investigation from any personnel changes, zeroing in
on obstruction of justice and protecting the integrity of the
investigation.

Francisco’s potential commitment to Trump’s political causes
became a central issue in his confirmation hearings last year,
when the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein
questioned his expressed support for Trump’s travel ban and
urged him in a letter to
“publicly commit to refuse any order or request — whether express
or implied — to interfere in the Special Counsel’s
investigation.”

After two decades in the top legal circles in Washington,
Francisco is an established presence that lawmakers have
recognized could be elevated at any time because of Trump’s
unpredictable behavior.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told Business
Insider last month he thought Francisco made for an ideal
candidate to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“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.

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