Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, number three at the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will resign her post, DOJ announced Friday.
Citing “two people briefed on her decision,” the New York Times first reported Brand will depart DOJ and join Walmart as the company’s top lawyer.
DOJ later confirmed Brand would leave the government “in the coming weeks.”
“The men and women of the Department of Justice impress me every day,” Brand said in a 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.”
No immediate reason for Brand’s and her assistant, Currie Gunn, decision to leave was forthcoming. She was publicly active in her role as recently as last week, when she keynoted a summit on human trafficking in Washington, DC.
Attorney General Sessions, however, was effusive in his praise. “Rachel Brand is a lawyer’s lawyer,” he said, continuing:
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. As Associate Attorney General, she 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. And 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. 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. She will always remain a part of the Department of Justice family.
During her nine-month tenure, Brand was an active advocate for several of the Sessions DOJ’s conservative priorities, including free speech on campus, for which she contributed a Fox News op-ed last month; enforcing religious liberty, for which she announced an amicus brief her department submitted on behalf of Christian parents in Montana who wished to benefit from a school choice tax-credit denied to them because they sent their children to a religious school; and ending the Obama administration’s “slush fund” of corporate payouts to left-wing non-profits.
Brand, a Supreme Court Clerk under Justice Anthony Kennedy, eminent conservative litigator, George Mason University law professor, and political appointee under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was confirmed to her post in the Trump administration in May. When controversy over Sessions and Rosenstein’s future brewed last summer, some speculated she might, at least temporarily, take the reins at the Justice Department.
Because Sessions has recused himself from all investigations involving the 2016 presidential elections, Brand would have found herself overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Russia investigation” if Rosenstein resigned, were fired, or, as some speculated in July he might, also recused himself from that investigation.
Unlike her two immediate superiors, Sessions and Rosenstein, Brand has largely avoided the public ire of President Donald Trump, who has not criticized her conduct in his not-uncommon pronouncements about conduct at DOJ.