The sudden departure of the Justice Department’s No. 3 official is adding to the turmoil at an agency that already lacks permanent, politically appointed leaders for many of its most important divisions, the Associated Press reports. Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand’s resignation increases the instability in the department and has prevented the Trump administration from fully implementing its agenda more than a year after Attorney General Jeff Sessions took office. Sessions on Monday blamed a single Republican senator for holding up the confirmations of key figures, including the heads of the department’s national security, criminal and civil rights divisions. Sessions was alluding to Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who promised to prevent the confirmation of all Justice Department nominees after Sessions lifted Obama-era protections for states that have legalized marijuana. Gardner continues to block the confirmations in protest, his spokesman confirmed Monday night.
Some of President Trump’s Justice Department nominees have been in limbo for months as they go through a drawn-out confirmation process that has been aggravated by Gardner’s resistance. It’s unusual to see a Republican blocking his own president’s nominee. “It’s getting frustrating,” Sessions told the National Sheriff’s Association. “These are critically important components … and we can’t even get a vote.” Brand is leaving for a top legal job at Walmart after less than nine months overseeing some of the department’s most politically challenging areas. She cited an a opportunity in the private sector she could not turn down, which pays considerably more than a job in government. She would have been in line to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had resigned, been fired or otherwise stepped aside. Eight key DOJ positions lack Senate-confirmed leaders, including four that were overseen by Brand.