With Tuesday’s midterm elections just days away and media coverage being dominated by polls and campaign rallies, including speeches by President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama, you may have missed a development that could have major implications for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility (CREW) revealed on Friday that Trump signed a secret waiver to prevent Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the man who “built his law practice as if his primary goal was to troll the libs” and is poised to oversee Mueller’s probe if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, from having to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Trump’s campaign is represented by Francisco’s former law firm, Jones Day, in Mueller’s investigation, which has racked up more than 100 criminal charges against dozens of people, including guilty pleas from Trump’s former national security adviser, former campaign manager, and multiple former campaign advisers.
The president signed an Executive Order shortly after taking office in 2017 that he claimed would strengthen ethics rules in government. CREW explained why that should have caused Francisco to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
As required by that Executive Order, Mr. Francisco signed an ethics pledge in which he promised that, for two years after joining the government, he would not participate in any investigation in which Jones Day represents a client. That promise means he must stay out of the Special Counsel investigation until at least late January 2019.
However, Trump’s waiver, signed by former White House Counsel Don McGahn in April, now means the man next in line to supervise Mueller is free to be involved with the investigation that involves his former employer.
To make all of this even more questionable, Francisco is not included on the list of waivers on the government website for “preventing conflicts of interest in the executive branch.”
Before joining Trump’s administration, Francisco represented a coal company connected to a deadly mining accident, advocated on behalf of Big Tobacco, talked about citizens using firearms against the government, and declared loyalty to the Federalist Society, the conservative group responsible for many of Trump’s judicial nominees.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was recusing himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017 due to his ties to Trump’s presidential campaign. Reports have suggested Trump could fire Rosenstein after next week’s elections.