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Justice Department’s No. 3 official steps down

Greg Stohr

Rachel Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, is stepping down after less than nine months in the job, according to a person familiar with the matter.

As associate attorney general, Brand, 44, was in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stepped down or was fired. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe.

Brand was confirmed by the Senate May 22 following a Judiciary Committee hearing alongside Rosenstein. She is leaving for an attractive offer in the private sector, according to the person.

Any nominee to replace Brand on a permanent basis would require Senate confirmation. That process would be certain to raise questions from lawmakers about the nominee’s willingness to remain independent from the Trump administration once in office, including the ability to withstand any pressure to dismiss the special counsel if asked to do so by the White House.

Brand, a Harvard Law School graduate who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a conservative who first served in the department under President George W. Bush. She supervised the department’s civil, antitrust and environmental divisions, among others.

From 2012 to 2017, Brand filled a Republican seat on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a panel that advises the president and other top officials about counterterrorism policy. She was appointed to that post by then-President Barack Obama. In 2014, Brand dissented when the panel’s majority concluded that the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk telephone data on Americans was illegal and should be stopped.

Brand also served as a senior counsel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s litigation arm.