In his remarks yesterday evening, President Trump thought out loud about possible personnel moves he could make to address his extreme dissatisfaction with the course of the Mueller investigation. Following the resignation of Rachel Brand as Associate Attorney General in February, Solicitor General Noel Francisco is the third-ranking official in the department.
If Trump were to relieve Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of his responsibilities, Francisco would assume responsibility for Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation. I don’t know Francisco, but he seems like the man for the job. Paul testified to his credentials here (and more here on a related note). Trump may have the Francisco option in the back of his mind.
Personnel moves at the department leave the Mueller project — the project of incapacitating Trump and removing Trump from office — in place. Even if Mueller and Rosenstein were to be sacked, the project would remain. If Attorney General Sessions were to resign, or if Sessions and Rosenstein were to be fired and Francisco were to become Acting Attorney General, perhaps he could assume direct command of Mueller’s brigade. I don’t know if Francisco would be amenable and would rein it in, but it’s a theoretical possibility (I think). Yet the project would remain
The personnel moves are all seem to me remote from solving Trump’s real problem at this point. Trump would not get a new AG confirmed. Trump’s personnel options are thus incredibly constricted. The Francisco option would hark back to Robert Bork and Watergate. I am not big on predictions, but of that much I am sure. Firings would provoke a political firestorm while accomplishing little. It is a mistake now to talk about or focus on Sessions and Rosenstein. If properly framed and argued, the pardon route might even be more politically viable than firings and the prospect of the endless Mueller project.