Rachel Brand, the number three official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job, the New York Times reports. Brand’s profile had risen because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. President Trump, who has called the investigation a witch hunt, has considered firing Rosenstein. Such a move could have put Brand in charge of the special counsel and left her in the cross hairs of the president.
Brand, who became the associate attorney general in May, will become the global governance director at Walmart, the company’s top legal position. She has held politically appointed positions in the past three presidential administrations. She now reports directly to Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation. Trump in recent weeks has escalated his criticism of the department for its handling of the inquiry and suggested that top law enforcement officials should face consequences for conduct he called “a disgrace.” Brand now oversees a wide swath of the Justice Department, including the civil division, the civil rights division and the antitrust division. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) commended Brand and noted that she oversaw “efforts to combat human trafficking, to fight the opioid crisis, and to hold sanctuary cities accountable to the rule of law.”