Seventh official quits Justice Department

WASHINGTON Fri Jun 29, 2007 7:29pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An assistant attorney general at the Justice Department announced her resignation on Friday, becoming the seventh official to quit the department since the Democratic-led Congress launched an investigation in March into the firing of nine federal prosecutors.

Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy, said she would step down on July 9. No reason was given.

Brand was nominated to her position on March 29, 2005, and confirmed by the Senate four months later.

She was responsible for preparing Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito for their confirmation hearings and helped in the reauthorization in 2006 of the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law that Congress approved after the September 11 attacks.

Last week, President George W. Bush's nominee for the third-ranking Justice Department post withdrew his name just days before a Senate committee was to hold a hearing on his nomination.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who heads the Justice Department, has been under pressure for months to step down over the firing of the U.S. attorneys, which was part of a plan that originated at the White House.

Critics have questioned whether politics played an improper role in the dismissals. Bush and Gonzales say the firing of nine of the 93 U.S. attorneys, all Bush appointees, was justified, although mishandled.

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