Associate AG Brand: I’d Take Oversight of Mueller Probe if Rosenstein Recused Himself

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Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand said Saturday that if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were forced to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, it would fall under her oversight.

Brand appeared on Hugh Hewitt's MSNBC program to also discuss foreign terrorist surveillance, but Hewitt briefly touched on Mueller's expansive probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

If Rosenstein was forced to recuse him from oversight of Mueller due to his memo about firing FBI Director James Comey in May, Brand would step in.

"I want to make clear to our audience you don’t have the Russia portfolio," Hewitt noted.

"I do not," Brand said.

"And as a result, you’re the third-ranking member of the Department, but you’re not overseeing anything to do with Special Counsel Mueller," Hewitt said.

"Nope," she said.

"What happens if Mr. Rosenstein, God forbid, gets hit by a bus or gets recused because of his memo? Do you take it over then?" Hewitt asked.

"In the order of succession, yes, but I don’t like to engage in hypotheticals about that," she said. "So I’m focused on doing my job every day, which does not include that. And I don’t have any reason to expect that it will."

Brand also told Hewitt she wanted a "permanent" reauthorization of Section 702, the federal law allowing the U.S. to surveil foreigners suspected of terrorism.

"We need this authority reauthorized this year," she said. "So the authority expires on December 31. Now if Congress does not reauthorize it before that, we’re going to have to immediately start winding down that program. And this is one of the most valuable intelligence tools we have to find out what the communications of terrorists located outside the United States are."

Brand said she wanted to make it clear that 702 authority does not authorize spying on U.S. citizens.

"So the important thing for me is to make sure that the legitimate concerns that people have about that kind of thing do not become confused with Section 702, which is a targeted program targeted towards foreigners outside the United States with many privacy protections and oversight by a board," she said.

Brand said a temporary extension of 702 authority would leave intelligence officials with unneeded uncertainty.

"We’d like a permanent reauthorization," she said.

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