To serve under Donald Trump is to be a disposable commodity whose value fluctuates with the master’s moods. This was true on “The Apprentice” and it’s true in the administration, where personnel matters have taken on a gameshow quality. Turnover has been especially rapid among those responsible for heading up the investigation into ties between Trump’s circle and the Russian government. This week, FBI Director James Comey joined Mary McCord, Sally Yates, and Preet Bharara as senior law enforcement officials who either resigned under Trump or were fired outright. As new officials are appointed to take their places, it’s getting hard to keep track of who is responsible for the Trump-Russia investigation. Two of these key officials (Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein) are Trump appointees; the third (Andrew McCabe) will likely be replaced by a Trump pick soon.
Current job: U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Virginia. Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division, Department of Justice.
Former jobs: Acting Attorney General (after firing of Sally Yates in February 2017 and before the confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General in April 2017); U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Louisiana.
Why He Matters: Both of Boente’s current roles involve supervising the ongoing investigation into the Russian government’s ties to Donald Trump’s campaign. As discussed by former FBI Director James Comey in congressional testimony last week, and reported by CNN, a grand jury is now gathering evidence in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of its investigation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, for his ties to the Russian government. Comey also described the broader Russia probe as a “counterintelligence investigation,” a category of inquiry overseen by the National Security Division, which Boente headed after the resignation of Mary McCord last month.
Bio: Boente is a career prosecutor who has been with the Department of Justice since 1984, serving under administrations from both parties. Boente oversaw the prosecution of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for corruption before the Supreme Court threw out the conviction in 2016, a decision that effectively narrowed the definition of political corruption. In 2015, Boente was nominated by President Obama to serve as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia — a post that handles a lot of national security cases, due to its proximity to the Beltway. After acting attorney general Sally Yates was fired for refusing to defend Trump’s Muslim ban, Boente was appointed acting attorney general and promptly reversed course, unsuccessfully defending it in court. (The Department of Justice has appealed.) Former colleagues told the New York Times that Boente wasn’t playing politics — he probably believes that a ban is legal. In April, Boente was tapped by Jeff Sessions to lead the Department’s National Security Division, which, along with the FBI, is responsible for the Russia investigation. In that role, Boente is also at the center of the Justice’s efforts to arrest and prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a move that could set a precedent that severely restricts press freedom.