Whoa: Rachel Brand, third in line at the DOJ, leaving for the private sector
This Friday news dump will be the best Friday news dump, believe me. Very tremendous.
Two possibilities. One: Some company decided to throw a cargo-hold of money at her to quit the DOJ and come work for them and Brand simply couldn’t say no. She’s 44, she has two kids and tuition to pay, so hey. Two: She understands that the Trump DOJ is going to be an unholy clusterfark for the next three or possibly seven years and that she too is likely to face the same fate as Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, being publicly dogged by a loose-cannon president who might soon be charged with obstruction of justice. Who the hell needs that, especially on a government salary?
Evidence of theory one:
Evidence of theory two: Ah, the last nine months of daily life at the DOJ?
Ms. Brand, who became the associate attorney general in May 2017, is leaving for a job as general counsel in the private sector. She has held politically appointed positions at the Justice Department over the past three presidential administrations…
Ms. Brand now oversees a wide swath of the Justice Department, including the civil division, the civil rights division and the antitrust division. She helped lead the department’s effort to extend a law that authorizes the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program…
Ms. Brand’s assistant, Currie Gunn, has also left the department.
Her assistant quit too? Did she also get a “dream job” somewhere?
If you’re wondering why Brand’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she pops up from time to time in stories about Trump seething at Sessions and Rosenstein. She’s number three at the DOJ behind the two of them but she’s number *two* in the Russiagate probe behind Rosenstein, thanks to Sessions’s recusal. If Trump were to fire Rosenstein or if Rosenstein were to recuse himself (very belatedly) due to his role in James Comey’s firing, Rachel Brand would be head honcho of the Russiagate investigation. She’d become Robert Mueller’s supervisor. If the order came down from the Oval Office to fire Mueller, it would be Brand’s choice to carry it out or resign in protest. Not a great spot to be in as a lawyer. Not tremendous!
It’s possible that she got an offer from the private sector that she couldn’t refuse, but consider that Brand had only been at the DOJ for nine months. A “dream job” might lead anyone to cut short their tenure in government but most high-level appointees aim to do at least a year of service. Meanwhile, given Trump’s perpetual rage at Sessions and Rosenstein, it’s quite possible that Brand would have been elevated to Attorney General before Trump’s presidency ends. For most lawyers, under normal circumstances, *that’s* a dream job. Under Trump-y circumstances, though? If anything, Brand may have feared rather than hoped that she’d eventually get the call. If she had a sweet private-sector offer on the table she may have seized it partly on “dream job” grounds but partly too on “escape hatch” grounds. After all, as the Mueller probe wears on, she could only be pulled further into the black hole of presidential rage that’s already partially consumed Sessions and Rosenstein. Might as well fire those engines and bug out in the opposite direction now, before she can’t get free.
Her friends insist, though, that she wasn’t looking to leave. If she were leaving in protest of Trump, wouldn’t she make some noise about that on her way out?
To answer my own question, maybe she’s eyeing a possible AG nomination in a future Republican administration (remember, she’s only 44) and knows that throwing a punch at Trump as she exits wouldn’t be viewed kindly by the GOP. If she’s disgruntled about the DOJ, the smart play is to go — but to go quietly.
And so the question: Who’s next in line now to be Bob Mueller’s boss if/when Trump finally dropkicks Rod Rosenstein out of the Justice Department? Uhhhhhhhh, no one really knows.
Brand’s leaving for a “dream job” and Boente, a glutton for punishment, is departing to become general counsel of the FBI. If Trump were to fire Rosenstein tomorrow, the task of supervising Bob Mueller’s Russiagate investigation would presumably fall to some U.S. Attorney, at least until Rosenstein’s and/or Brand’s successor is confirmed by the Senate. Which is another question — will Trump appoint a more or less down-the-middle professional to replace her or, tired of prosecutors who won’t do his bidding, would he aim to install a crony in the role? I keep thinking that it’s a matter of time before Jared Kushner relents and allows Chris Christie to join this administration, either as chief of staff or as a bigwig at the DOJ. If Trump canned Rosenstein and got Christie through the Senate as the new deputy AG, suddenly Mueller would be answering to Christie and Trump would have a successor for Sessions all lined up and ready to go. The vacancy in Brand’s position would be less important. Like I say, stay tuned.
Update: Sounds like the dream job might be global governance director of Wal-Mart. That would indeed involve a cargo-hold of money, I assume.