Mary B. McCord, who has been helping oversee the Justice Department’s probe into Russian interference in the presidential election, is stepping down from her post as the acting head of the department’s national security division and leaving the federal government in the coming weeks, a source familiar with McCord’s role told The Intercept. The source, who asked not to be identified as McCord’s departure has not been formally announced, said that McCord plans to work in academia after leaving government.
It was not immediately clear who will take over for McCord. “I can confirm that Mary is leaving DOJ next month,” said Marc Raimondi, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, by email. “I cannot provide any additional material at this time.”
McCord did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
McCord will be leaving at a time when Justice is already in disarray. In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded the resignations of all U.S. attorneys who had served under President Obama and had not already left. As the Washington Post reported this week, nearly all the U.S. attorney positions remain unfilled.
Rod J. Rosentein, Trump’s nominee to be Sessions’s deputy, has not been confirmed. And Trump hasn’t even nominated replacements for the heads of major divisions within the department — including national security and civil rights. McCord was filling in at the national security division until the Senate could confirm a Trump-nominated replacement.
McCord is a career civil servant who became acting assistant attorney general in charge of the national security division in October, when John Carlin, an Obama appointee, resigned. In that role, McCord was responsible for counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations at Justice. In his testimony before Congress, FBI Director James Comey described the Russia probe as “a counterintelligence investigation” and said it would “include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
“Any major investigation related to counter-intelligence or cyber-related counter-intelligence would fall under Mary’s leadership,” said Luke Dembosky, who served as deputy assistant attorney general at the national security division until last spring.
The Washington Post reported last week that DOJ’s national security division, along with the FBI, obtained a warrant from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last summer to wiretap Carter Page, a one-time adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign.
In March, McCord announced the indictment of two Russian intelligence officers and two hackers accused of accessing Yahoo’s network and the contents of webmail accounts. At a press conference, McCord said that Yahoo hacking case was “a separate investigation” from the hacks of the Democratic National Committee. “That’s an ongoing investigation,” she said of the DNC matter.
“This is an extraordinarily sensitive and important position for the national security apparatus,” said professor Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law School. “The national security division is often the cooler head in the room in negotiations within the intelligence community.” Bedoya dealt with the division in his previous job as counsel to a Senate judiciary subcommittee.
Comey has been the public face of the federal investigation into Russian meddling with the election, although it is being handled inside the bureau by the counterintelligence division. Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe, leaving acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente as the top official responsible for the investigation.