The Importance of Dana Boente
Many of us woke Monday to the news that the much-maligned deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, was stepping down from his position six weeks earlier than planned. The afternoon brought circulating rumors that McCabe told friends he felt he was being “pushed out” of the FBI by agency’s director, Christopher Wray. With the FBI and Department of Justice under almost constant attack from Trump, his surrogates, and Fox News, panic began to set and was seen all over the mainstream free press and social media. Was Chris Wray just another pawn Trump could and would use to further his own personal agenda? What would this mean for the Trump-Russia investigation? As I contemplated all the worst possible outcomes and reached for the anxiety meds, I remembered something that provided some amount of comfort – Dana Boente.
On January 23, 2018, FBI Director Wray appointed Dana Boente as General Counsel for the FBI, the third in command of the agency. The position had been previously held by James Baker, who had been reassigned to a mysterious, unknown position. Who is Dana Boente? After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Administration and a Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University, Boente began his legal career in the federal court in Chicago, IL. In 2001, he became the Assistant US Attorney in the Fraud Division in the Eastern District of Virginia office and was appointed US Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana by then Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012. 2013 brought him back to the Eastern District of Virginia as Acting US Attorney, where he was involved in the prosecution of former Virginia Governor Bob McConnell. He said of that case, “no one is above the law… not a high official, not even the highest public official in Virginia.” In 2015, he was nominated and confirmed as the 60th US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
If his name sounds familiar, it should, but it may not immediately come to mind why. As the new administration took office in January of 2017, Boente became the Acting Deputy Attorney General under Sally Yates. When she was fired for failing to enforce the first Muslim Ban, he became Acting Attorney General until February 9, 2017 when Jeff Sessions was sworn in. He served as Sessions’ Acting Deputy Attorney General until Rod Rosenstein was sworn into office on April 26, 2017. He continued to serve as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the number four person in command at the Department of Justice until October of 2017, when he unexpectedly submitted his resignation.
Is the name still not ringing a bell? Think back to June 8th, 2017. Former FBI Director James Comey is providing testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee with regards to his firing by Trump the month prior. He has recounted the now infamous Valentine’s Day dinner at the White House when Trump asked for his loyalty and that he hoped Comey could see fit to “let Flynn go.” When asked if he had told anyone about these conversations, Comey answered he had reported it in detail and asked for advice from the Department of Justice – from Dana Boente, then the Acting Deputy Attorney General. His name may also be familiar if you have been following the Russia investigation since the beginning. It was the grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia that issued the first subpoenas against Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Rick Gates. When Robert Mueller was appointed Special Prosecutor, it was this grand jury he used to issue subpoenas. It was also this grand jury that returned the indictments against Manafort, Gates, and later, Flynn.
Why does this matter in his being appointed General Counsel at the FBI, what does it tell us about Director Wray, and why did it calm my anxiety? Along with his all-out assault on the FBI and Department of Justice, Trump has been systematically purging anyone who was a) a holdover from the Obama administration and/or b) involved in investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia and his own obstruction of that investigation. It started with Sally Yates, most of the US Attorneys (most notably, Preet Bahrara in the Southern District of Manhattan), and James Comey. It has continued with attacks on Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, and Andrew McCabe. Dana Boente falls into both of those categories. He is an Obama appointee who, outside of Robert Mueller’s team, probably has the most knowledge of both the Trump Russia and obstruction of justice investigations. Despite that, Director Wray has given him the number three seat at the FBI table. He knows Boente’s commitment to the rule of law, dedication to law enforcement, and history of prosecuting high-ranking officials. This gives me hope that Director Wray has that same commitment; that although he was appointed by Trump, he understands the role of the FBI and the need for independence from the White House. As the investigation gets closer to the occupants of the White House and as Republicans refuse to hold the Executive Branch accountable and in check, this country’s heroes will be those working quietly, with dedication to the rule of law, who are willing to say, “no one is above the law… not a high official, not even the highest public official….”
Update: Many feel Trump will attempt to use the memo written by staffers of Rep. Devin Nunes to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein approved at least one of the FISA warrant extensions the memo calls into question, is the person who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and would be the one who could fire him. If that happens, will Trump also attempt to pressure Director Wray into firing Dana Boente? As the memo states, Boente also approved one of the FISA warrant extentions. If he doesn't, that would almost certainly be a clear signal that the only reason to fire Rod Rosenstein would be to end the special counsel's investigation into the Trump Campaign's possible collusion with Russia and Trump's subsequent obstruction of justice.
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