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Facebook’s top lawyer is leaving as the company still grapples with election aftermath and a federal investigation

General Counsel Colin Stretch is leaving at the end of the year.

Facebook, Google And Twitter Executives Testify Before Congress On Russian Disinformation Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Colin Stretch, Facebook’s top lawyer and the man who led Facebook’s investigation into Russian election interference efforts following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is leaving the company at the end of the year.

Stretch, who has been at Facebook since 2010, posted on Tuesday that he’s planning to leave the social giant but will stay on until the end of the year to help find his replacement.

“There is never a ‘right time’ for a transition like this, but the team and the company boast incredible talent and will navigate this well,” Stretch wrote. “I am committed to doing my part to assist with the transition and will stay on through the end of the year.” Stretch, who lives in Washington, D.C., added that Facebook needs “sustained leadership in Menlo Park,” something that’s apparently hard to provide from the East Coast.

Stretch’s departure comes during a stressful time for Facebook’s legal team. Not only is the company still grappling with the controversial role it played in the 2016 U.S. election — Russia used to platform to try and divide U.S. voters with inflammatory and inaccurate posts — but it’s also gearing up for the 2018 midterms. Company executives have been open in saying that they expect foreign governments might try again to sway voters.

Facebook is also under federal investigation by numerous government agencies, including the FTC, the FBI and the Department of Justice. That investigation has to do with Cambridge Analytica and how Facebook handled the fact that an outside researcher collected and sold data on as many as 87 million users without its permission.

Stretch has played an integral role in both situations. He led Facebook’s investigation into Russian meddling, and has been key in crafting the company’s legal response to the Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress back in April, Stretch was in the room.

He also has experience dealing with the FTC — experience that could come in handy over the next six months. When Facebook settled with the FTC in 2011 after the agency determined that the company repeatedly failed to protect user privacy, Stretch was the Facebook’s lead negotiator.

Company lawyers don’t usually get much attention, although Stretch was more visible than most. He was the only representative from Facebook last fall when the company testified before two Senate committees and a House committee to discuss Russian election interference efforts.

Facebook will conduct an outside search for Stretch’s replacement. One possible candidate is already in the building: Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel. He was a federal magistrate judge before leaving the bench to join Facebook back in 2016. And Grewal has been heavily involved in Facebook’s response to its Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

Here’s Stretch’s full post:

Sharing that I will be leaving Facebook at the end of the year. When my wife Alyse and I made the decision a few years...

Posted by Colin Stretch on Tuesday, July 24, 2018

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