- 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.