Rumors that Rosenstein may soon be out of a job kicked into overdrive on Monday when bogus reports claimed Trump summoned Rosenstein to the White House. Early reports indicated that the meeting may not have anything to do with Rosenstein either quitting or being fired, especially given that the President is not in DC right now, but that didn’t stop the rumors.
Noel Francisco, the No. 3 at the Department of Justice who previously served as a prominent conservative lawyer would be next at bat. He also has a conservative history of working with the late SCOTUS Scalia. This will not sit well with Democrats.
The New York Times published an explosive report on Friday, asserting that senior officials heard Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein imply that he wanted to secretly record conversations with President Donald Trump. The report also stated that he had previously spoken with Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
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.
In the case that Rosenstein leaves, which early reports indicate may not happen, Francisco would become the acting deputy attorney general and oversee Mueller’s probe.
Francisco would be able to allow Mueller to continue the investigation, or he could choose to impose more restrictions on the special counsel’s mandate or even completely shut it down.
Francisco is a prominent conservative lawyer who previously clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and worked in the DOJ under the Bush administration in the 2000s.
Francisco’s past legal stances may indicate his disdain for 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, who by then was in private legal practice, 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.”
As the media foments about what Trump may do and how Francisco being a conservative is troubling to them, many are also reasonably noting that the president has more than enough reason to fire Rosenstein.
Rosenstein has numerous troubling conflicts of interests with Mueller, signed four applications from the FBI to obtain FISA warrants to spy on Carter Page, a brief aide on the Trump campaign, and has allowed Mueller unfettered powers to charge people for crimes that supposedly occurred decades ago.
Rosenstein has also come under heavy fire for refusing to hand over many documents to congressional lawmakers regarding Mueller’s probe.
It’s all speculative what happens next, but many agree Trump has every right to fire Rosenstein. And if Francisco takes over, his conservative ideology and support for Trump could play a role in scaling back Mueller’s unlimited reach and unfettered powers in the Russia probe.