WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand, will resign and take a senior job at Walmart Inc, with sources familiar with her decision saying yesterday that she had grown increasingly uncomfortable with President Donald Trump’s attacks on her department and the FBI.
The department said Brand will be leaving her post in the coming weeks.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, himself repeatedly criticized by Trump, praised her “critical role in helping us accomplish our goals as a department.”
Brand, 44, was next in line of succession to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia and whether the Republican president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the ongoing probe.
She became the latest senior law enforcement official to either resign or be fired since Trump took office in January 2017, a list that includes a Federal Bureau of Investigation director and deputy director, and an acting attorney general. Trump also ousted all remaining U.S. attorneys, the chief federal prosecutors in each state, who had served under Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
Brand’s resignation is different in that she was hand-picked for the job by Trump, assuming her post just five days after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017.
News of Brand’s departure came a week after Trump approved the release of a previously classified memo written by Republican lawmakers that portrayed the Russia investigation, initially handled by the FBI and now headed by Mueller, as a product of political bias against Trump at the FBI and Justice Department.
After just nine months on the job, Brand had become more and more uneasy with Trump’s escalating attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI, which she and other law enforcement professionals feared was beginning to undermine the rule of law, according to sources familiar with her thinking.
In a statement, Brand defended her department, saying, “The men and women of the Department of Justice impress me every day.”
The attacks have escalated in recent weeks as Republicans in Congress have criticized the handling by the Justice Department, FBI and the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of warrants for surveillance of a Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page, who had ties to Russia. Trump called the matter “a disgrace.”
In a statement, Walmart said Brand will join the company as executive vice president for global governance and corporate secretary. “We are fortunate to have a leader of Rachel Brand’s stature join the company,” President and CEO Doug McMillon said.