Questions About the Man Who Will Take Over the Trump/Russia Investigation

In a move that went completely unnoticed at the time, President Obama issued an executive order on January 13th (a week before he left office) that changed the order of succession for the Attorney General, should the person in that position die, resign or become incapacitated. Gone from the previous list was the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente.

Interestingly enough, when Donald Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates because she refused to defend his travel ban, the president replaced her with Dana Boente. Then on the day that Jeff Sessions was sworn in, Trump signed an executive order reversing the one Obama had signed just four weeks prior. In addition, Boente was made Acting Deputy Attorney General.

Now that Sessions has recused himself, Boente is the one who will be in charge of the investigation of ties between the Russian government and Donald Trump.

Just to be clear, Boente’s colleagues describe him as apolitical.

“Dana was very circumspect about his politics,” said former assistant U.S. attorney Gene Rossi, now a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia. “I never saw Dana, in the 22 years I worked with him, make what I considered to a political decision. . . . He will try his best to enforce what he thinks is the law.”…

“He has a strongly held belief that [the Department of Justice] should not be politicized, and that senior leadership at [the Department of Justice], one of their primary roles is to ensure it’s not politicized,” Dry said. “Dana’s the least political guy I know. I think Dana’s view is he’s going to follow the law.”

But it’s hard not to wonder why Obama, as he was heading out of office knowing that Trump had nominated Sessions to be the next Attorney General, felt the need to issue an executive order eliminating Boente from the line of succession. Or why he was suddenly promoted by Trump to be in charge after Yates was fired. Finally, why did the president feel the need to reverse Obama’s executive order on succession in the DOJ? It is all very mysterious, isn’t it?

There is much more to this story than we currently know. It’s worth keeping an eye on what Boente does with this investigation.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.