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Sanders on Rosenstein: No announcements

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says she has "no personnel announcements at this time" when reporters asked if President Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Posted: Apr 14, 2018 9:25 AM
Updated: Apr 14, 2018 9:27 AM

Only one person at the Justice Department has the ability to stop special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. But what happens if that person is fired?

CNN has reported that President Donald Trump is ruminating about axing Mueller's boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as a way to curtail the investigation.

What Trump does next could trigger any number of messy legal battles. Here's what to know.

1. There is a succession plan

Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the department, is supervising the Mueller probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

So if Rosenstein is fired or recuses himself (as a witness to key events), someone else at the Justice Department will have to manage the investigation.

This is where the department's succession plan and the President's executive order for vacancies come into play.

The following list of individuals -- which is a mashup of officials because certain Trump nominees have not yet been Senate-confirmed -- would be next in line to step in Rosenstein's shoes:

  1. Solicitor General Noel Francisco
  2. The assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Engel
  3. The assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers
  4. The US attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert Higdon
  5. The US attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Erin Nealy Cox

Under this hypothetical, Francisco would be the first in line to supervise Mueller. But Rosenstein's acting principal associate deputy, Ed O'Callaghan, would become acting deputy attorney general for all other regular duties.

2. Who fills vacancies?

The issue of who runs the Mueller investigation could become complicated if Trump tries to appoint someone else to serve as acting deputy attorney general under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

The President has already done this for acting heads of the Veterans Affairs Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But the key question is whether that new person, once appointed, could fire Mueller. Legal experts disagree on this and point to several unresolved issues.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act is silent about what happens when someone is fired, as opposed to resigning.

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin repeatedly insisted that he had been fired, whereas the White House said he had resigned.

Some legal experts believe that if Rosenstein were fired, Trump could put in whomever he wants because the Federal Vacancies Reform Act implicitly includes firings, it would be impossible in certain cases to distinguish between a forced resignation and a termination, and the President's hands shouldn't be tied. Others say, however, that there's a policy argument that allowing the act to cover firings permits the president to work around Senate confirmation in a way that shouldn't be encouraged.

Still other experts emphasize that Rosenstein is not supervising Mueller in his role as deputy attorney general, he's doing it as the acting attorney general. Under the special counsel regulations, the "Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted."

Therefore, those experts argue that only Francisco (or the next in line) could step in to fire Mueller because he's the next in succession to be acting attorney general. They point to the fact that the regulations do not say "Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General." Yet others argue that by someone else being appointed as acting deputy attorney general, that person should take on all the current responsibilities of the permanent one, which naturally includes the Mueller investigation.

Bottom line: This would all be uncharted territory, none of this has been resolved by the Supreme Court and any moves could trigger swift litigation.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 958153

Reported Deaths: 16968
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1109381191
Cuyahoga944201702
Hamilton72486944
Montgomery46927869
Summit39637941
Butler35004461
Lucas34724755
Stark29011826
Warren22137269
Lorain21738385
Mahoning19251533
Lake18178300
Clermont18172206
Delaware16261128
Licking14820194
Fairfield14378157
Trumbull14136454
Greene13470209
Medina13188218
Clark12121332
Wood11384193
Portage10829152
Allen10710231
Richland10165198
Miami9937179
Columbiana8049179
Muskingum8036123
Tuscarawas7974233
Pickaway795898
Marion7936134
Wayne7791216
Erie6783181
Ross6065135
Geauga5978129
Hancock5941110
Scioto5867105
Ashtabula5811140
Lawrence519073
Union505052
Darke5006122
Belmont484787
Sandusky472393
Jefferson4709107
Huron4701116
Seneca4620103
Athens456231
Mercer4559101
Auglaize453896
Washington451286
Shelby438867
Knox397884
Putnam3964101
Madison388747
Ashland374594
Fulton374364
Defiance3670101
Brown366742
Crawford354296
Preble350570
Logan349757
Clinton336162
Highland323652
Ottawa318467
Williams299578
Jackson287056
Guernsey283234
Champaign282545
Fayette265642
Perry265239
Morrow256624
Henry242665
Hardin241856
Holmes2416104
Coshocton230246
Van Wert227749
Gallia219446
Adams213732
Pike212025
Wyandot207652
Hocking192148
Carroll178828
Paulding158423
Meigs133536
Noble127842
Monroe114936
Harrison99132
Morgan98834
Vinton76215
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