When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein realized his memo regarding then-FBI Director James Comey’s job performance was cited as a major reason for the latter’s dismissal, he threatened to resign. That never happened, but in a politically charged climate in which his boss’ boss, President Donald Trump, is now openly lambasting him on Twitter, Rosenstein finds himself in a quandary. Why? Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ replacement on all things Russia may have to recuse himself should Special Counsel Robert Mueller call him as a witness to this mess. But who would replace him?
None other than Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand who, according to an ABC News report, “was sworn-in little more than a month ago.” The same story, which broke the news of Rosenstein’s potential recusal earlier on Friday, suggests the deputy AG has already begun briefing his likely replacement in the event that she must “step in and take over [his] responsibilities.” While the late AG Janet Reno (who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993) was the first women ever to serve in the Justice Department’s highest ranking position, Brand already has her hands full as the first women to serve as associate AG.
Judging by the department’s already highly problematic situation, the Washington Post noted that Brand already has her hands full since her position puts her in charge of “lawyers who litigate civil rights, environmental and antitrust issues.” With Sessions’ focus on rolling back police reform and the ongoing fallout from Trump’s decision to bail on the Paris climate accord, Brand’s job is already difficult. Now that her immediate superior may recuse himself, the 44-year-old Justice Department employee who was previously appointed to the Office of Legal Policy in 2005 by President George W. Bush faces a whole new challenge.
Yet Brand’s background suggests she could be just the woman for the increasingly complicated job of acting AG. According to Axios, the former intern to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) graduated from University of Minnesota at Morris, attended Harvard Law, and was a member of the latter’s Federalist Society. Before serving in Bush’s DOJ and subsequently advising President Barack Obama on privacy and surveillance issues, she clerked in Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s office and spent some time in the private sector with the firm formerly known as Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal.
As MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller noted on Twitter, it “[s]eems like only a matter of time before Rachel Brand is the acting attorney general for purposes of this investigation.” For despite Rosenstein’s reported admission, Mueller’s expanding investigation and Trump’s resulting public irritation indicate the associate AG will undoubtedly fill her boss’s shoes, which he’s technically been filling for Sessions, followed his own recusal. Her background and merits argue that Brand is qualified for the job, though since no Democrats voted for her during her Senate confirmation process, her ascension to the top spot likely won’t silence DOJ critics.