More than a decade later, as the Trump administration's key defender at the Supreme Court, Francisco reiterated his belief that the Constitution "gives the president what the framers saw as the traditional means of ensuring accountability: the power to oversee executive officers through removal."
"The president is accordingly authorized under our constitutional system to remove all principal officers, as well as all 'inferior officers' he has appointed," Francisco wrote in Lucia vs. SEC, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A number of experts have said that Francisco's arguments in that case suggest that he could be more reluctant to constrain the president's control over the probe than Rosenstein has been.
Neil J. Kinkopf, a former lawyer in the Justice Department's office of legal counsel who is now a law professor at Georgia State University, said Francisco went beyond the narrow issue the Supreme Court was facing in order to make an argument about the president's wide authority to dismiss government officers.
"None of those issues had to come up. Noel Francisco reached out to raise them," Kinkopf said.
The court ultimately declined to rule on that issue, but Francisco's insistence on bringing it up is telling, Kinkopf said.
"It might make a difference if Mueller were to try to subpoena the president," Kinkopf said. "It might make a difference if the president were to issue any order to Mueller."
Francisco's arguments in the case, alongside his affiliation with the Federalist Society, are "pretty strong evidence" that Francisco subscribes to the "unitary executive theory," said Peter Shane, a professor at Ohio State University. Unitary executive theory generally holds that the president controls the entire executive branch of government and can wield that power with few limits.
Shane said it's not just Francisco's view of executive power that could make a difference. Replacing Rosenstein with Francisco would also represent the transfer of oversight on the probe from a lawyer who has expressed grave misgivings about the president — reportedly even bringing up the prospect of a Cabinet-level mutiny — to a close Trump ally.
"It could be that officials in the Justice Department who are more sympathetic to the president's position may be more inclined to set up good cause for removal," Shane said.
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