Top U.S. Justice Department official steps down for legal job at Walmart

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U.S. Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, who is second in line to the department’s top job and first for the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation, is stepping down after less than a year to take a position at Walmart, officials said on late Friday.

Brand, who has a diverse legal career in public service and in the private sector, has served as the third-ranking officer in the Department of Justice since May 22 of last year. She has decided to step down “in the coming weeks,” the department said in a statement.

Jamie Gorelick, a friend and former colleague, told the Associated Press that Brand will become the head of global corporate governance at retail giant Walmart. “She felt this was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down,” Gorelick told the news agency.

“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here,” Brand said in a written statement. “I want to thank Attorney General Sessions for his leadership over this Department. I’ve seen firsthand his commitment to the rule of law and to keeping the American people safe.”

As the third-ranking officer in the Justice Department, Brand’s position in the line of succession is behind Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. President Donald Trump has been critical of Rosenstein amid speculation that Trump has considered trying to fire him.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation last year. Should Rosenstein step down or be fired after Brand’s resignation, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would assume the responsibility to oversee Mueller’s investigation.

Brand oversees a wide swath of the Justice Department in her position, including the antitrust division, the civil division, the civil rights division, and the tax division. She also led the department’s efforts to renew the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program for another 6 years.

Brand was praised for her work by officials in the Justice Department, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who commended her for her strong leadership. “I know the entire Department of Justice will miss her, but we join together in congratulating her on this new opportunity in the private sector. She will always remain a part of the Department of Justice family,” he said.

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