Number 3 official at Justice Department suddenly resigns
What the hell is going on at the Justice Department? Yesterday, Editor Lifson wrote about the resignation/firing of two high ranking officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice. Both had played a role in the Clinton investigation. Both resigned suddenly.
Lifson linked to a piece at the Conservative Treehouse that listed other recent resignations:
"Jim[,"] aka James Baker (FBI [c]hief [l]egal [c]ounsel)[,] was removed in January.
"Mike[,]" aka Michael Kortan (FBI [a]sst. [d]irector [p]ublic [a]ffairs)[,] quits today.
"Dave[,]" aka David Laufman (DOJ – National Security Division, [d]eputy [a]sst. [a]ttorney [g]eneral in charge of counterintelligence)[,] quit yesterday.
"Trisha[,]" aka Trish Beth Anderson (Office of Legal Counsel, FBI)[.]
Not listed was the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who will figure prominently in the IG investigation into the bureau's handling of Clinton's email investigation.
Another shoe dropped yesterday. The third ranking official at the Department of Justice, Rachel Brand, suddenly resigned to take a "dream job" as an WalMart executive. What makes her resignation even more curious is that Brand was next in line to oversee the Mueller investigation, behind Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein is thought to be in big trouble and could be fired by Trump or resign in the near future.
DOJ officials say Principal Deputy Associate AG Jesse Panuccio will step in as the acting Associate Attorney General.
News of Brand’s departure was first reported by The New York Times.
In the line of succession, Brand had been behind Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein is overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. She was in line to oversee the investigation if Rosenstein stepped down.
Should Rosenstein step down now, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would take over the probe, not Panuccio. (Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry last year.)
Her resignation could be entirely coincidental. People in DC get offered plum jobs all the time. But this seems to throw "coincidence" into a cocked hat:
Brand had been overseeing the DOJ's antitrust, civil and civil rights divisons. She also assisted in an extension of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program. (Emphasis mine).
That program is not directly related to the FISA warrant program. The NSA warrantless surveillance program is supposed to spy on foreigners, with Americans sometimes getting caught up in its investigations if they communicate with people overseas who are being surveilled. If Americans are incidentally caught up in the NSA surveillance program, the only way to discover their identities is to "unmask" them.
So, as noted in coverage of the Obama administration’s monitoring of Trump-campaign officials, FISA section 702 provides some privacy protection for Americans: The FISA court orders “minimization” procedures, which require any incidentally intercepted American’s identity to be “masked.” That is, the NSA must sanitize the raw data by concealing the identity of the American. Only the “masked” version of the communication is provided to other U.S. intelligence agencies for purposes of generating reports and analyses. As I have previously explained, however, this system relies on the good faith of government officials in respecting privacy: There are gaping loopholes that permit American identities to be unmasked if, for example, the NSA or some other intelligence official decides doing so is necessary to understand the intelligence value of the communication.
And Brand "assisted" in this program. Mmmmmm...
The spate of firings and resignations may or may not be unprecedented. Certainly in recent memory it is. But the massive incuriousness of the press about what's happening at DoJ rasies the question: Is there any information that threatens or contradicts their narrative about Trump and Russia collusion ever going to be reported?