Rachel Brand, Third Ranking at DOJ, Resigns

Trump won't say whether he's planning to fire Rosenstein

After Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the third-highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice, abruptly resigned on Friday, professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law Steve Vladeck anxious about President Donald Trump further attempting to obstruct justice in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The daughter and granddaughter of Dutch dairy farmers in Iowa, Brand has been praised for her deep knowledge of the Justice Department.

A friend of Rachel Brand told The Associated Press Friday she has accepted a job at a major corporation, but would not be more specific. That left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein overseeing Mueller's investigation, and Trump and GOP allies have attacked Rosenstein at times.

"The men and women of the Department of Justice impress me every day", she said. "I've seen firsthand his commitment to the rule of law and to keeping the American people safe".

The possibility of Brand being thrust into the Russian Federation investigation has increased in recent weeks as Rosenstein has come under political attack from Republicans for supporting the renewal of a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign adviser.

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Brand ranks below Attorney General Jeff Sessions - who recused himself from Robert Mueller's Russian investigation - and Rosenstein who is now overseeing Mueller's investigation into the Trump administration's ties with Russia.

Sessions also praised her work, calling her a "lawyer's lawyer". His broadsides have strained morale at the institution known for its vaunted independence from the White House. "The president can not directly interfere with the special counsel's investigation without going through - or getting rid of - Rosenstein".

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 charged memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance powers in the Russian Federation investigation. That job would now fall to the solicitor general, Noel Francisco. "She will always remain part of the Department of Justice family".

Brand has kept a very low profile at the department, but in December she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post defending the renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which permits the National Security Agency to collect foreign intelligence on USA soil without individualized warrants. In a statement, Walmart said Brand will join the company as executive vice president for global governance and corporate secretary. In her current capacity, she oversaw a number of politically challenging areas of the department, including the civil rights, antitrust and civil divisions.

She had recently pushed Congress to renew a foreign intelligence surveillance program that gives the U.S. government authority to spy on foreigners located outside the country.

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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.

Associated Press reports contributed to this article.

Other sources said Brand has chafed for months at the limits of her post at DOJ.

According to Brand's associates, she plans on taking up a high profile job in the private sector following her resignation.

Brand previously worked in the administrations of both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the head of the Justice Department's office of legal policy and as a member of an oversight board for privacy and civil liberties.

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