The Department of Justice’s third-ranking official is planning to step down at a time of turmoil in the agency.
Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand is leaving the DOJ for the top legal job at Walmart, a press release on the department’s website confirmed Friday.
‘I know the entire Department of Justice will miss her, but we join together in congratulating her on this new opportunity in the private sector,’ Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, in the statement.
‘She will always remain a part of the Department of Justice family.’
Brand will leave her position ‘in the coming weeks,’ the statement said.
Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand is leaving her third-ranking role at the Department of Justice for the top legal job at Walmart, a friend and colleague said; She is seen here speaking at the DOJ in Washington, DC on February 2
‘The men and women of the Department of Justice impress me every day,’ Brand said, also in the statement.
‘I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here. I want to thank Attorney General Sessions for his leadership over this Department. I’ve seen firsthand his commitment to the rule of law and to keeping the American people safe.’
Sessions applauded Brand for her service to the DOJ, calling her ‘a lawyer’s lawyer.
‘As Associate Attorney General, [Brand] has played a critical role in helping us accomplish our goals as a Department—taking on human trafficking, protecting free speech on campus, and fighting sexual harassment in public housing,’ he said.
‘When I asked her to take the lead in the Department’s efforts on Section 702 re-authorization, she made this her top priority and combined her expertise and gravitas to help pass legislation keeping this crucial national security tool. Rachel has shown real leadership over many important divisions at the Department.’
Attorney General Jeff Sessions (left) is accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (center) and Associate AG Brand (right), during the summit on Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking at Department of Justice in Washington, DC on February 2
Sessions makes opening remarks at the US Southern Command Opioid Summit on Thursday in Doral, Florida
Brand’s departure comes as the Justice Department has been subject to unprecedented attack by President Donald Trump.
Trump’s broadsides have strained morale at the institution, which has long been praised for its independence from the White House.
Brand attracted interest because of her potential to assume a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been repeatedly criticized by Trump.
Rosenstein is the official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether there was Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
If Rosenstein had been fired or quit, oversight of Muell’ers investigation would have fallen to Brand. That job would now fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, in such a scenario.
Rosenstein (left) and Brand (right) participate in a summit to discuss efforts to combat human trafficking, at the Justice Department, on February 2 in Washington, DC
Trump, who has openly lamented his inability to influence Justice Department decisions, has stepped up his criticism in recent weeks, fueled by the release of a politically explosive memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance powers in the Russia investigation.
Brand, who became Associate Attorney General in May, has kept a relatively low profile and, unlike other top officials, has not been personally targeted by Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the ‘quality and leadership’ of Brand and Rosenstein at a Justice Department event last week that focused on human trafficking, which was one of her stated priorities.
In her current capacity, she oversaw a number of politically challenging areas of the department, including the civil rights, antitrust and civil divisions.
Brand recently pushed Congress to renew a foreign intelligence surveillance program that gives the US government authority to spy on foreigners located outside the country.
She has also been vocal about the department’s efforts to support students who say their free speech rights are being violated on college campuses.
Walmart sought Brand to be head of global corporate governance at the retail giant, a position a friend and former colleague, Jamie Gorelick, said has legal and policy responsibilities that will cater to her strengths.
‘She felt this was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down,’ Gorelick told the Associated Press.
‘It really seems to have her name on it.’
Brand also served the DOJ under Barack Obama, and was a high-ranking official in the department under George W. Bush.
She is a graduate of Harvard Law School, clerked at the Supreme Court, she worked at the White House, in academia, and has served in leadership positions spanning three administrations.
Sessions (center) joins with US Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, SOUTHCOM’s commander (left) and Anthony Williams (right), Drug Enforcement Administration associate administrator, during the opening remarks at the U.S. Southern Command Opioid Summit on Thursday