On Monday, Sept. 24, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein headed to the White House, and for a moment it looked like he would leave without a job. Tensions between Rosenstein and President Donald Trump have been heating up for a while, and it's become pretty apparent that sweet sorrows aren't uncommon for the Trump administration. So, if he leaves, who would replace Rod Rosenstein in overseeing the investigation into possible collusion with Russia? Well, if you're wondering who Noel Francisco is, you're not alone. There's a chance he might be the new face in this political game.
Rumors that Rosenstein's career is on the chopping block has been circling for a few days, ever since reports emerged on Sept. 21 that he had made comments — jokingly or not — about removing Trump from office via the 25th Amendment and brought up secretly recording the president. Elite Daily reached out to the Department of Justice for comment at the time, but did not hear back. But with rumors r-eemerging on Sept. 24 that Rosenstein's departure might be imminent, everyone wants to get to know the person who might be taking his place to oversee the investigation into possible collusion with Russia. Typically, if a DAG leaves, the associate attorney general would be the one to fill the role. However, since that position is currently vacant after Rachel Brand left her role in February.
What makes it all more complicated is that Rosenstein is effectively doing two jobs right now: his own, as DAG, and — when it comes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia — that of his boss Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation. That means that should Rosenstein leave, the role of DAG might go one way, while the oversight of the Mueller investigation would go another. And the person who would take that latter role over is Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who's next in line. Even though he might be a bit of a mystery at the moment, Francisco is certainly no stranger to the political game, having worked with President George W. Bush as associate counsel from 2001 to 2003.
Should Rosenstein depart, Francisco would take charge in overseeing Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. However, it's his views on presidential power that might be significant to the investigation. According to Newsweek, Francisco rejected the idea to appoint a special counsel to oversee an investigation in 2007, after George W. Bush decided to fire a number of U.S. attorneys. In comments provided by Mother Jones, Francisco discussed his opinion not to appoint special counsel during a House judiciary subcommittee hearing in March 2007. He said,
I don’t think it would be appropriate for the Department of Justice to appoint [a special counsel]. My own personal belief is that when you hand these issues off to the career prosecutors in the public integrity sections in the U.S. attorneys’ offices in the Department of Justice, those attorneys are generally better able to assess whether a case should be pursued.
Clearly Francisco's past positions on appointing special counsel could of interest to Trump, whose 2016 presidential campaign is currently being investigated by Mueller for possible collusion between members of the campaign and Russia. Trump has not been a fan of the investigation, repeatedly calling it a "witch hunt." However, Rosenstein has been the only one with the direct power to fire Mueller, and his potential departure has led to speculation about whether Trump might replace him with someone more inclined to dismiss the special counsel.
On Monday, Sept. 24, Rosenstein made headlines when he went to meet with Trump at the White House. At first, the public questioned whether Rosenstein would be fired that day, especially because the deputy attorney general had reportedly been discussing leaving his position. As CNBC reports, the rules about succession of political roles means that whether or not he resigns or is fired is a big deal. If Rosenstein resigns, Trump has a lot more flexibility to appoint who he wants as a new DAG. If he's fired, Trump's control over a replacement is much more limited.
Despite the rumors, it looks like Rosenstein will be staying in his role for at least a few more days. On Monday, Sept. 24, The New York Times reported that Rosenstein and Trump will meet again on Thursday, Sept. 27 to discuss Rosenstein's future in the Justice Department.
So, there you have it everyone. It's only Monday and already the drama is starting to unfold. I don't know about y'all, but I'll have my tea piping hot for Thursday.