Thu, 22 Nov 2018

Associate AG Rachel Brand quit over Russia probe fears

By Sheetal Sukhija, Alabama State News
13 Feb 2018, 15:19 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - Days after the third-highest ranking Justice Department official, Rachel Brand decided to step down, now reports have revealed the real reason she might have quit.

Brand, reports revealed, quit partly because of fears that she might be asked to oversee the highly controversial Russia probe.

Multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand revealed on Monday that she had been unhappy with her job for months, even before the department announced her departure on Friday.

Eventually, sources pointed out that Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation.

Reports noted that over the coming weeks, Brand will be leaving the Justice Department to take a position with Walmart as the company's executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary.

Sources further pointed out that the job change had been in the works for some time now.

According to reports, Brand had expressed to friends that she felt overwhelmed and unsupported in her job as far back as last fall.

She reportedly felt unsupported especially as many key positions under her jurisdiction had still not been filled with permanent, Senate-confirmed officials.

What confirmed the reports further was the fact that four of the 13 divisions overseen by the associate attorney general remain unfilled, including the civil rights division and the civil division, over one year into the Trump administration.

Brand’s departure from the Justice Department came at a time of intense political scrutiny for the department. 

Amid constant criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, Brand, who is the first woman to serve as associate attorney general resigned after being in her Senate-confirmed position for nine months.

Brand reportedly had been worried that Trump’s public criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein 

Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election if Rosenstein would be fired.

This would thrust her into political spotlight that Brand reportedly told her friends she did not want to enter.

However, the Justice Department has rejected the claims made in reports.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said in a statement on Monday, "It is clear these anonymous sources have never met Rachel Brand let alone know her thinking. All of this is false and frankly ridiculous.”

When Brand announced her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement describing Brand as "a lawyer’s lawyer.” 

Sessions noted that she graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked at the Supreme Court.

Brand meanwhile said, "I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here."

In recent weeks, the possibility of Brand being thrust into the Russia investigation has increased as Rosenstein has come under political attack from Republicans.

Rosenstein had supported the renewal of a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign adviser.

Last week, after the release of a memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee claiming abuses in the Russia investigation, Trump had stated, “I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country. A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”

On being asked whether he was more likely to fire Rosenstein and whether he had confidence in him, Trump said cryptically, “You figure that one out.”

Ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe last year, Trump lashed out at him and even said that he wouldn’t have appointed Sessions if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the probe.

Following Sessions’ decision, the Russia investigation was turned over to his second in command, Rosenstein, who in turn appointed Mueller as special counsel after Trump fired former FBI director James Comey.

A few months later, as revelations continued to emerge in Mueller’s investigation, Trump again expressed his dissatisfaction with Sessions’ decision, calling his Attorney General “beleaguered” and “very weak.” 

Trump even said at a news conference in the Rose Garden that he was “disappointed in Sessions.”

With Brand’s departure, Solicitor General Noel Francisco is reportedly next in line at the Justice Department to oversee the Russia investigation after Rosenstein.

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