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Top DOJ official Rachel Brand fires back at claims she bolted over Mueller probe concerns

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Former top Justice Department official Rachel Brand, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, pushed back strongly at speculation she left the Trump administration over concerns she could have been tapped to oversee the Robert Mueller Russia probe.

“Anyone who actually knows me knows that had nothing to do with my departure,” Brand told Fox News on Tuesday.

Brand spoke with Fox News during her last afternoon as associate attorney general, the No. 3 DOJ post. She recently made the surprise announcement that she’s stepping down to take a position as Walmart’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary.

The move spurred anonymous-source speculation that she’s leaving in order to avoid the possibility of getting caught up in the internal politics of the Russia investigation – namely, being thrust into the role of Mueller’s keeper if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were to be pushed out.

RACHEL BRAND, NO. 3 OFFICIAL AT DOJ, IS STEPPING DOWN

Brand, however, stressed that she’s leaving only to take a job “most lawyers would dream their whole career about taking.”

‘I never had any reason to think that the Mueller probe would come to me.’

– Rachel Brand

“These kind of jobs come along maybe once in a career, and when they come along it might not be the perfect timing for you, but you have to take the opportunity when it comes,” she said.

Brand bristles at some of the reports about the circumstances of her exit.

“I never had any reason to think that the Mueller probe would come to me, and even if it had, it has nothing to do with why I left the department,” Brand said. “… This was about seizing an opportunity, not about leaving DOJ.”

Brand, the first woman to serve as associate attorney general, built an impressive resume by the time she was nominated for the post by President Trump.

She has held senior titles inside the Department of Justice during three presidential administrations. After helping to represent former President George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, she served as an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy. In 2012, Brand was appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

But her tenure in the Trump administration came with unavoidable questions about the direction of the Russia probe.

Mueller presently is supervised by Rosenstein, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation last year. But as Trump has fumed over the investigation – typically via Twitter – lawmakers have warned about the possibility he could oust Rosenstein.

If Rosenstein were to go, Brand would have been next in line to supervise the case.

A source close to Brand inside Justice headquarters, though, scoffed at the idea that she was “overwhelmed,” as one report suggested.

“If she really wanted to leave DOJ, she wouldn’t uproot her whole family to Arkansas, she could have easily found something closer to home,” the source said.

Still, Trump has made a habit of attacking the Department of Justice, including the attorney general and the FBI, during his first year in office — leading many to worry about morale at the department. He renewed that pressure on Wednesday, questioning on Twitter why Sessions isn’t looking at “Dem crimes” amid the Russia probe.

However, Brand told Fox News she believes morale inside the department is high and the workforce is “committed to the mission.”

When pressed to comment on the rocky relations between the White House and DOJ, Brand told Fox News, “I think that the overwhelming majority of the DOJ workforce does a pretty good job of tuning that out.”

Looking back at her lengthy DOJ career, Brand said she sees the push for the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as one of her key victories.

“On the night of the cloture vote in the Senate, it was extremely tight, we had to get to 60 votes,” Brand recounted. “The floor was held open for hours because we needed that 59th and 60th vote and to work closely with [Director of National Intelligence Daniel] Coats … was an incredible honor and a pleasure.”

The reauthorization “was a huge win for the intelligence community and for all Americans.”

Brand also pointed to her work during the George W. Bush administration getting Justice Samuel Alito confirmed to the Supreme Court as another highlight.

“The kind of work we do here is amazing. It’s very fulfilling. It’s really important,” she said.

“Of course I will miss my colleagues here at the department,” Brand said. “I wrestled with leaving, because I do enjoy this work so much … but I’m also excited about my next chapter.”

Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.

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U.S. has administered over 309 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, CDC says

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The United States had administered 309,322,545 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and distributed 374,398,105 doses in the country as of Sunday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Those figures were up from the 308,112,728 doses of vaccine that the CDC said had been administered as of Saturday, out of 374,397,205 doses delivered.

The agency said 173,840,483 people in the United States had received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 143,921,222 people were fully vaccinated as of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday.

The CDC tally includes the two-dose vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc/BioNTech/ as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

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Nigel Farage SHOULD be honoured for 'services to EU exit' – 'He's the man of the Century!'

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DOZENS of influential figures have been rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for their services to Brexit – but one former MEP has pointed out that Nigel Farage has been excluded.

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Queen Elizabeth II hosts Bidens at Windsor Castle

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LONDON — They met Friday at the Group of Seven summit, but President Joe Biden and the first lady had an altogether more private meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, at her home in Windsor Castle.

The monarch, 95, received the Bidens for tea at her historic residence, about 30 miles west of London. On arrival they were greeted with an official Guard of Honor military parade, which gave a royal salute and played the American national anthem.

Biden stood next to the queen in the sunshine, wearing his aviator sunglasses, before inspecting the troops in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle, last seen on television during the somber funeral ceremony of her husband, Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April.

The queen has stoically continued with her official duties since then and met Biden alongside other world leaders and their spouses on Friday at the G-7 summit, by the seaside in Cornwall, southwest England.

There, she amused leaders when she quipped during a photo-call: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourselves?”

Biden first met the queen in 1982 as a Democratic senator for Delaware but this time he joined her as president. He is the 13th serving president the monarch has met. She has met every serving American president since Dwight Eisenhower — except Lyndon Johnson who did not travel to Britain while in office.

As a 25-year-old princess in 1951, she also stayed with President Harry S. Truman and his family in Washington, D.C.

The queen has hosted four other American presidents at Windsor Castle in recent years, including former-President Donald Trump in 2018, who shocked press and palace pundits when he breached royal protocol by walking ahead of the queen, at times blocking her view and giving her his back.

After a state visit in 2019, Trump told Fox News: “There are those that say they have never seen the queen have a better time.”

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On arrival to England last week, first lady Jill Biden told reporters that meeting the queen was “an exciting part of the visit for us.”

She also undertook a separate engagement with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, when the two visited a school on Friday.

Kate told NBC News during the visit that she was looking forward to meeting her new niece, Lilibet Diana, born in California earlier this month.

Britain’s royal family have had a turbulent year in the public eye following a bombshell interview given by the queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

The couple stunned viewers with allegations of royal racism — denied by the palace — while Meghan also spoke publicly about how royal life and media pressure had taken its toll on her mental health.

After taking private afternoon tea with the queen on Sunday, Biden will then travel to nearby Brussels for a NATO summit, before heading to Switzerland on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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