February 12, 2018


Top Justice Department official Brand quit partly over fear she might be asked to oversee Russia probe (JULIA AINSLEY, 2/12/18, NBC News)

The Justice Department's No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said.

Brand Loyalty (Julian Sanchez, Feb. 12th, 2018, JustSecurity)

[I]t's helpful to appreciate two things about Rachel Brand.

The first is that Brand had a solid bipartisan reputation as a conservative lawyer of professionalism and integrity. When confirmed to her post last May, she won praise from Clinton Administration veteran Jamie Gorelick, as well as Barack Obama's former acting solicitor general, Neal Kaytal. When I first encountered Brand, in her previous role as a Republican member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board during the Obama administration, she was as consistent as she was vocal in her disagreement with those of us who believed government surveillance in the name of the War on Terror had gone too far. Yet she also impressed me as a serious and fair-minded advocate for her positions, and many of my colleague in civil society have expressed public disappointment at her impending departure.

The second thing to understand is that if you squint at Brand's resumé, it resolves itself like a Magic Eye stereogram into a single bold-faced, all-caps sentence, which reads: "MY LIFE'S AMBITION IS A SENIOR POST AS A POLITICAL APPOINTEE AT THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT." At Harvard Law School she joined the conservative Federalist Society, and after graduating won a coveted Supreme Court clerkship under Justice Anthony Kennedy. When Elizabeth Dole was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, Brand served as general counsel to her exploratory committee, and would later join the judicial advisory committee for Sen. John McCain's campaign. She was on the transition team for the George W. Bush administration, which she would later join, spending five years as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. Decamping to the private sector, she spent a few years at the firm WilmerHale, returned to public service as a member of the PCLOB, worked at the the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as chief counsel for regulatory litigation, and finally found herself back at Main Justice as one of the early appointees of the fledgling Trump Administration. All of which is to say: This is not the profile of a person who arrives two rungs south of attorney general at the age of 44, then departs after less than a year on the job because she has suddenly realized the private sector pays better.

It should be no surprise, then, to find there's more to this story than a hidden passion for Wal-Mart. As NBC News reported Monday, citing sources close to Brand, the Associate AG "had been unhappy with her job for months," having grown both "frustrated by vacancies at the department" and afraid she would be forced to take up Rosenstein's burden of supervising--and so potentially being ordered to dismiss--Robert Mueller.

The most obvious and immediate inference to draw from this is that Brand, surely as well positioned as anyone to read the writing on the wall, has not been reassured by the White House's repeated assertions that neither Mueller nor Rosenstein are on the chopping block. She regarded it as likely she'd be faced with the Hobson's choice of executing an order to sack Mueller, and in the process immolating her reputation for probity, or defying a Republican president and being sacked herself, which however popular it might make her with MSNBC hosts, would play poorly in the conservative legal circles where she'd built her career.

Posted by at February 12, 2018 3:19 PM