Well I totally missed this!
Over Memorial Day weekend, Attorney General William Barr removed a low-profile US attorney in Texas following the public airing of a dispute over an investigation into Walmart – a move that didn’t draw the same attention as the firing of the high-profile US attorney in Manhattan, but is now raising new questions about political interference inside the Justice Department.
Joseph Brown, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and a Trump appointee, was pushed out after ProPublica published a nearly 7,000-word storyheadlined “Walmart was almost charged criminally over opioids. Trump appointees killed the indictment,” which described an internal battle over a Texas prosecutor’s efforts to bring criminal charges against Walmart, according to people familiar with the matter. Walmart has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Late last month, Brown was contacted by a Justice Department official in Washington and given an ultimatum, he could resign or it would go “differently,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.
The official didn’t explain why Washington officials wanted Brown to leave, according to the person, "but it was clear it was related to ProPublica. That’s the only explanation.”
And a twofer!
Joshua Russ, the assistant US attorney in Texas overseeing the civil investigation and the co-head of a Justice Department working group, resigned in October after the civil investigation stalled.
In his resignation letter, which was published by ProPublica, Russ wrote, “I appreciate that there are rational disagreements about how best to proceed, and I respect those divergent views. However, I deeply regret that Department leadership prevented EDTX from filing its lawsuit in 2018.”
Brown was replaced by Stephen J Cox, a Barr pick who ran the civil division in Washington. According to ProPublica, when Texas prosecutors wanted to file a civil lawsuit against Walmart Cox was among the Washington officials who said it wasn’t ready.