The equation has changed yet again. Up to now, the math has been that if Donald Trump ever did fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, control of the Trump-Russia investigation would fall into the hands of the No. 3 at the Department of Justice, Rachel Brand. However, Brand announced today that she’s resigning. So what does this mean for the investigation, and why is she really quitting?
Brand was a Trump appointee, and she’s only been on the job for nine months. People don’t leave these kinds of important jobs after this short of a period of time without a good reason, so this means something. Trump was surely hoping that Brand would be willing to do his personal bidding to sabotage the Russia investigation. But Trump has always guessed wrong on this when hiring agency officials, and it appeared he guessed wrong on Brand as well. Although she was a conservative, she had gained the respect of President Obama over the years, meaning she was likely a straight shooter like Rosenstein.
That in turn means that she must understand the gravity of her position and the responsibility that comes with it. All along she’s been one Trump tantrum away from being in charge of the Russia investigation. Walking away is simply not an option, unless she knows that the person who’s set to take her place as the No. 3 at the DOJ is also a straight shooter. Our assessment of Brand before her resignation was that she was a career professional who was going to do right by the Trump-Russia investigation. Even with her resignation, we’re giving her the benefit of the doubt – unless we see otherwise – that she knows what she’s doing.
So does the resignation of Rachel Brand put Donald Trump any closer to being able to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Probably not. Keep in mind that if Trump had gone on a Saturday Night Massacre and fired Rod Rosenstein in an attempt at getting to Mueller, he could have just fired Brand as well. So her departure doesn’t necessarily change anything. Of course cable news will tell you that Brand’s departure means Trump will fire Mueller any minute. But cable news spent all of December insisting that Trump was about to fire Mueller, and of course that was just a baseless ratings grab during a slow news month. Don’t read too much into Brand’s departure. Not yet.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report