Muskegon native is No. 3 in Justice Department


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand is the first woman to hold the No. 3 spot at the U.S. Department of Justice, but she says she doesn’t think about that.

“I didn’t even know it until I sat down with one of the previous associate AGs before my confirmation hearing. He told me,” Brand said.

Brand leads a team of lawyers on range of issues from civil rights to antitrust and environmental laws.

“There’s no typical day. It varies widely from day to day,” Brand said.

During her first weeks in office, the Justice Department has been in the headlines almost daily as President Donald Trump called the investigation into Russia’s attempts to meddle with the presidential election a “witch hunt” and criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, a decision Trump called “very unfair to the president.” If Rosenstein were to step aside or if he were to be fired, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation would become Brand’s responsibility.

“I have to say, it doesn’t really affect my day-to-day. That, to me, is a lot of chatter. I try not to let it distract me,” Brand said.

She said the greatest challenge of her job is keeping up to date on all of the issues she and her lawyers are working on.

The Harvard law graduate was born in Muskegon and raised in Pella, Iowa, a town founded by Dutch immigrants. Decorative wooden shoes, reminders of home, sit in her office.

“If you grew up in Pella, you will probably do Dutch dancing at some point in your life,” Brand said.

She says her Midwest upbringing helps her make well-rounded decisions.

“I think having an experience outside the Beltway, outside the East Coast, in a small town can give you a different perspective of how actions of the government affect people,” she said.

Throughout her confirmation hearings, critics worried Brand would put the interests of big business over the American people — but Brand says she’s a lawyer, committed to her client.

“I serve a client and my client is the United States and the American people,” Brand said.

Brand worked under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. She held a different position within the Justice Department during the Bush administration. She says she loves and respects the DOJ and it’s great to be back.

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