The Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand, is planning to step down from her post, the New York Times reported Friday.
Brand, the Associate Attorney General, would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s election interference, if President Donald Trump fired Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The Times report cites two sources briefed on the matter. Spokespeople for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to TPM’s inquiry about the report.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, leaving Rosenstein, the department’s number 2, in charge.
Both Rosenstein and Sessions have become the subjects of Trump’s ire in connection with the probe. Trump admitted to the New York Times last year that he would not have picked Sessions as his attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself.
More recently, the Washington Post reported Trump had seen a controversial memo written by House Republicans based on classified material as a vehicle he could use to fire Rosenstein. The memo, which was released publicly last week, said Rosenstein signed off on an application to reauthorize a surveillance warrant on ex-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
The White House said last week that Trump has no plans to fire Rosenstein.
The New York Times did not say that Trump’s attacks on the Mueller probe were the reason that Brand was resigning. But the paper noted that if Trump fired Rosenstein, it would place Brand in Trump’s crosshairs as she took on oversight of the investigation.
A political appointee, Brand had left private practice to join the Trump administration, but had worked in political positions under prior administrations. She has been seen as a rising star within the conservative legal world.
Her position gives her oversight over a wide range of Justice Department offices and initiatives, including the civil rights and antitrust divisions.