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No. 3 Justice Department official leaving for Walmart

Rachel Brand, the Justice Department's third-ranking official, is stepping down to take a job in the private sector, close friends of hers said Friday.

Rachel Brand, the Justice Department's third-ranking official, is stepping down to take a job in the private sector.

The Justice Department announced her departure in a statement Friday night and Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Brand "a lawyer’s lawyer."

"I know the entire Department of Justice will miss her, but we join together in congratulating her on this new opportunity in the private sector," Sessions said.

People in Brand's position, associate attorney general, come and go with little notice. But her planned departure attracted immediate attention, because she is next in line to take over supervision of Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were to quit or be fired.

Walmart said in a statement that Brand would serve as executive vice president, global governance and corporate secretary and that she will report to President and CEO Doug McMillon.

"We are fortunate to have a leader of Rachel Brand's stature join the company," McMillon said. "Her strong character, capabilities and experience will enable her to contribute broadly as we shape the future of Walmart and strive to serve our customers even more effectively."

A close friend of Brand said, "She's leaving, because she has the kind of job offer you don't turn down."

Brand plans to leave the government "in the next few weeks," which means she'll be stepping down after just shy of nine months on the job.

This is her second time in the Justice Department. From 2003 to 2007, she served in top policy positions during the George W. Bush administration.

As associate attorney general, she supervised the Department's civil components, including civil rights, antitrust, and environment and natural resources. The job isn't for everyone, and some friends have wondered whether she found it a good fit.

Last week, at a Justice Department event on human trafficking, Sessions praised her and Rosenstein, saying, "They both represent the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department."

While word of her planned departure raised questions about whether a government shake up was in the works, administration officials said they knew of no other plans by senior officials to leave.

President Donald Trump's criticism of Sessions and Rosenstein specifically and the Justice Department the FBI more generally have increased the pressure on senior officials at both places.