Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by President Trump, according to two people briefed on her decision.
Ms. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump, who has called the investigation a witch hunt, has considered firing Mr. Rosenstein.
Such a move could have put her in charge of the special counsel and, by extension, left her in the cross hairs of the president.
Ms. Brand, who became the associate attorney general in May 2017, is leaving for a job as general counsel in the private sector. She has held politically appointed positions at the Justice Department over the past three presidential administrations.
In her current job, she reports directly to Mr. Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation.
One has to wonder if Brand saw some writing on the wall, or if she simply finds working in the Justice Department under Donald Trump too toxic.
Brand is considered a consummate professional, and somebody who people felt could not be bullied by Trump to fire Robert Mueller, or be convinced to impede his investigation.
With her gone, and soon to be replaced with somebody of Trump's choosing, Rod Rosenstein could almost certainly find his job on the chopping block, as Trump moves to further obstruct the Russian investigation.
I think it is too early to assert that this will definitely be what happens, but I would not be at all surprised if we suddenly saw Trump attacking Rosenstein more vociferously on Twitter.