The No. 3 in charge at the Justice Department, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, is abruptly stepping down, two sources familiar with her decision told the New York Times.She is leaving after only nine months on the job to take an executive role at Walmart, Reuters reports.The move comes as the White House and Republicans in Congress continue to criticize the Justice Department for its handling of the special counsel’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia, specifically the number-two at the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the investigation.
Trump reportedly considered firing Rosenstein in January, a move that would have put Brand next in line to oversee the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and given her the power to fire him as deputy attorney general. When reporters asked Trump last Friday whether he had confidence in Rosenstein, Trump told reporters, “You figure that out.”Her resignation is the latest in a series of Trump Administration shakeups. Trump advisor Rob Porter resigned yesterday after allegations of domestic violence and brutal photographs of his ex-wives surfaced. Just two weeks ago the deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe stepped down amid criticism of the agency’s leadership.The criticism has intensified since Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee led by California's Rep. Devin Nunes drafted a memo claiming rampant anti-Trump bias in the FBI and Justice Department based on classified information about how the agencies requested permission from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to surveil former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page in 2016. They allege the FBI relied on information from a controversial dossier funded by Trump’s political opponents in their request.The memo left out some crucial details about the investigation, including the fact that the FBI had been surveilling Page since 2014.The president piled on the criticism right before the memo was released to the public on Feb. 2 tweeting that the FBI and Justice Department “politicized” the investigation. The next day, he tweeted that the Republican memo “totally vindicated” him and called the investigation a “witch hunt.”This was not Brand’s first stint at the Justice Department; she worked there from 2003-2007 under President George W. Bush in the Office of Legal Counsel while Robert Mueller, now the special counsel leading the investigation of the Trump campaign, was FBI director.Brand is a longtime Republican who has donated thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns since the early 2000s, backing Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2011 and 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. She has also donated to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.Cover: Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein,(L), and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, participate in a summit to discuss efforts to combat human trafficking, at the Justice Department, on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)