The New York Times is reporting that associate Attorney General, Rachel Brand, is stepping down:
Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by President Trump, according to two people briefed on her decision.
Ms. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump, who has called the investigation a witch hunt, has considered firing Mr. Rosenstein.
Such a move could have put her in charge of the special counsel and, by extension, left her in the cross hairs of the president.
Umm… now. Right now. NOW IS THE TIME TO PANIC.
Brand is a Republican but presented as a person with a basic commitment to constitutional government. She’s the person most likely to take over should Donald Trump fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but she’d given no indication that she’d be any more willing to do Trump’s bidding and fire Robert Mueller should Trump fire Rosenstein.
With her out… I don’t know who takes over now. But whoever Trump appoints is likely going to have to pass some kind of secret loyalty oath to the President. Because that’s how Trump operates. There’s just no protection for Rosenstein anymore.
This is bad. Or, you know, “good” if authoritarianism is your preferred form of government.
UPDATE: According to Pete Williams, the most recent line of succession executive order stipulates that with Brand gone, the line of succession after Rosenstein goes to various U.S. Attorneys (not, like, the Solicitor General which would have made some sense). The next up would be the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, who is Robert J. Higdon, a Trump appointee.
Meantime, Brand’s position is subject to Senate confirmation. So, again, that loyalty pledge Trump will certainly ask for will have to be “secret.”
UPDATE: Brand is leaving to become global head of corporate governance at WalMart. That’s… a pretty sweet offer. Walmart is unlikely to put you in the middle of a constitutional crisis any time soon.
Also, Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed reasons that Solicitor General Noel Francisco would indeed become next in line should Trump fire Rosenstein, not U.S. Attorney Higdon. I think the disagreement is that Tillman is looking at an internal DOJ succession memo adopted in 2016, while Pete Williams is looking at an executive order on succession from 2017. I don’t know who is right. I do know that if Trump fires Rosenstein now ALL FIGURATIVE HELL will break loose.
No. 3 Official at the Justice Department Is Stepping Down [New York Times]