All of which is to say that Brand might be about to walk into a political firestorm like nothing she’s ever experienced—with Trump pressuring her to close out the Russia “witch hunt” quickly, and Democrats already primed to view her with suspicion.
“Brand is in a very tricky spot,” Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and Brookings Institution scholar Benjamin Wittes wrote in a joint blog post on Friday. Both men know Brand and “admire her a lot.” But they said they were worried by her lack of experience as a prosecutor “or even a background in criminal law.” They said she might now be confronting the “tough task of insulating the investigation from the erratic and inappropriate behavior of President Trump.”
Rosenstein might welcome turning over the responsibilities to Brand because it would take him out of the immediate line of fire from the White House, especially if Trump follows through on reports that he might order the Justice Department to curtail Mueller’s investigation or fire him.
If Brand took over supervision of Mueller’s inquiry, she would face a dilemma if Trump gave the order—fire the special counsel or, if she refused, face her own dismissal or resignation from the Justice Department. Many legal scholars have drawn a comparison between the situation faced by Rosenstein—and now, possibly, Brand—and the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy resigned rather than following President Richard Nixon’s orders to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.