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No. 3 Justice Department Official To Depart For The Private Sector

Associate Attorney General Tony West, at podium, speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Aug. 21. West is preparing to announce he is leaving government for a job in the private sector.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

Associate Attorney General Tony West, the third in command at the U.S. Justice Department, is preparing to announce he will leave government for a job in the private sector, two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR.

In a statement, the Justice Department confirmed West's planned departure.

Attorney General Eric Holder said West was an "indispensable member of the Department's senior leadership team, an exemplary and dedicated public servant, and a close advisor and good friend."

Holder also pointed out that West led the department's civil division when it decided not to defend the constitutionality of part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court later threw out that part of the law.

West served as the point man for the Obama administration's efforts to recover taxpayer money in a series of settlements related to residential-mortgage-backed securities. He extracted billions of dollars from chief executives at JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America but sent few if any individuals to prison for their role in the 2008 economic meltdown.

West also traveled repeatedly to Indian Country to promote efforts to protect children, reduce violence against women and encourage more prosecutions of criminal activity on reservations.

His departure after five years is not entirely a surprise. Many other top political appointees at the Justice Department and across the government are likely to be heading for the exits as the midterm elections approach and the administration prepares for its final stretch in office.

Before West's promotion, he had led the Justice Department's civil division since April 2009. West has a long history in justice at federal and state levels, rivaled only by his connections to Democratic politics.

He has worked on every Democratic presidential campaign since 1988 — except in 1996 and 2012 when he was a Justice Department employee. He was co-chairman of President Obama's 2008 California Finance Committee.

West's wife, Maya Harris, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and his sister-in-law is California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

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