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Meet the Little-Known Trump Official Who Could End the Mueller Probe

Solicitor General Noel Francisco

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The fate of the special counsel investigation that has cast a long shadow of the White House may ultimately fall into the hands of Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a little-known Trump appointee who happens to be no fan of the FBI or its former director, James Comey.

Many legal experts believe Trump lacks the authority to fire Rosenstein on his own, so the next quickest way to end the special counsel probe is to get someone else to do it.

If Trump fires Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and is overseeing the investigation, the next in line to become Mueller’s boss is Francisco, who has a history of fighting to protect what he sees as broad executive privileges.

Like Trump, Francisco has claimed Comey, whom the president fired in May, is motivated by a political biased against Trump. That has raised concerns that Francisco would be more likely to follow orders to fire Mueller, whose 11-month investigation has landed indictments against more than 20 people and entities.

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

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, the removal of the deputy AG would give control of the Mueller investigation to the third-ranking Justice Department official, the associate attorney general, a job that has been vacant since Rachel Brand resigned from the position in February and has yet to be replaced.

Under Justice Department rules, Francisco, 48, is the next in line.

If Trump follows through, the move would be strikingly similar to President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre in which he fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The terminations left the decision up to Solicitor General Robert Bork, who fired Cox. A judge later ruled the termination was illegal.

 


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