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One news development was somewhat overshadowed by reports that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has obtained his first indictment in the Russia collusion investigation. Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the former acting Attorney General, announced that he’s resigning. The announcement came the day before news of the indictment broke on CNN.
The unexpected resignation announcement of Boente, which came Thursday, October 26 but was revealed the following day, has a lot of people murmuring about the timing. Wasn’t it pretty coincidental that Boente said he is going to quit the day before news leaked of a grand jury approving the first criminal charges in the Mueller investigation? We can stipulate that it seems coincidental. But what does it mean? Why did Dana Boente resign? According to Raw Story, just two days before, “Boente told a friend that he was eager to get back to his U.S. Attorney position …Friday, however, he abruptly resigned.” He’s not leaving immediately, though, staying until a successor is named, according to The Washington Post.
“I will be around for a while and hope to visit with all of you to discuss how much the office and our work means to each of us,” Boente wrote in a letter to people in his office, the Post reported. “I have so much respect for you and the work you do every day.”
First, a little background on Boente. When Sally Yates was fired for refusing to implement the Donald Trump travel ban, Boente briefly served as acting AG. A 33-year veteran of the Department of Justice, Boente became the US Attorney in the powerful Virginia district after being appointed to the slot by former President Barack Obama.
According to The Washington Post, “The job is an important and high-profile one. The Eastern District is home to the CIA and the Pentagon, and its prosecutors often handle terrorism cases. It includes about 300 lawyers and other employees with offices in Alexandria, Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News.” Boente was also “serving as acting assistant attorney general of the National Security Division and will remain in that post until John C. Demers, an attorney for Boeing who worked at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, is confirmed,” reported The Post.
Boente didn’t provide any reasoning for the resignation. It’s possible that there is nothing behind it other than him deciding to retire. However, these are the top theories:
It Has Something to Do With Michael Flynn
It was not immediately clear who was indicted (or whether more than one person was) in the Robert Mueller investigation. However, some were theorizing that Dana Boente’s resignation is a bad sign for former National Security Director Michael Flynn. Astute observers remembered that Dana Boente was involved in the Flynn investigation. One theory holds that Boente quit because his work was done.
“It was only recently that U.S. Attorney Dana Boente’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, issued the subpoenas to the Flynn associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he left his job as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014,” Daily Wire reported in May 2017.
Furthermore, reported Daily Wire, “Boente, head of the Justice Department’s national security section, is also heading the investigation into WikiLeaks and the group’s founder, Julian Assange.”
Others think that, if Boente’s resignation relates to Michael Flynn at all, it might mean that Flynn has been cooperating with the FBI (after all, he once asked for immunity for his testimony), not that he’s the subject under indictment.
Boente Is a Witness to an Obstruction Charge Against the President
Liberal pundit Rachel Maddow speculated that Boente’s resignation is bad news for Donald Trump and could point to the obstruction investigation being a focus for Mueller.
“Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into whether or not the president obstructed justice when he fired the FBI director, James Comey,” Maddow said on her show. “James Comey has testified to Congress under oath that the president contacted him inappropriately, many times, to put pressure on him about the Russia investigation before he fired him. According to James Comey, one of the witnesses to one of those overtures by the president was Dana Boente.”
As Raw Story put it, “If Boente is a witness in the obstruction case, that might be a reason that he could no longer continue in his position.”
It Relates to Hillary Clinton’s Emails
Boente and the Eastern District of Virginia office oversaw the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016, alongside the FBI, according to the Washington Post.
He and other prosecutors took part in the interviews of the then-Democratic presidential nominee and her current and former staffers.
Would a Trump loyalist reopen the email investigation somehow? There’s been some news on the Clinton front lately. “President Donald Trump has made it clear to the State Department that he wants to accelerate the release of any remaining Hillary Clinton emails in its possession as soon as possible,” CNN reported on October 27, 2017. “This latest move for disclosure from the State Department comes at the same time the President called upon the Justice Department to lift a gag order on a key FBI informant in an investigation into Russian efforts to gain influence in the US uranium industry during the Obama administration.”
This is Part of a Trump Scheme to Fire Robert Mueller
According to the liberal site Daily Kos, Rachel Maddow “interviewed former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller Friday night and Miller reported that Boente was looking forward to his successor being confirmed at the Department of Justice, so that he could return to his old post as U.S. Attorney. Miller told Maddow that Boente’s abrupt resignation, ‘was not a resignation that was completely of his own volition.’” The site theorized that Trump forced out Boente to set the stage for a “Saturday Night Massacre.”
Newsweek was another outlet that argued it’s possible that Dana Boente was forced out by Trump in an effort to ultimately fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how that works:
“Trump has an opportunity to replace another Obama-era holdover in the Department of Justice line of succession. If Trump demands that the department fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and if enough officials resign or get fired rather than carry out his order, the decision to do so could fall to Boente’s successor,” reported Newsweek. In other words, this gives Trump a chance to put a pro Trump person in the powerful post.
Newsweek noted that Trump has interviewed some people for open U.S. Attorney positions (which is considered unusual). Newsweek also reported that Trump signed an executive order that altered the line of succession at Justice. “The order altered the line of succession at the top of the Justice Department. The order includes three U.S. attorneys, meaning that making departmental decisions such as whether to fire Mueller could fall on one of them,” reported Newsweek.
It would take a while to get to the Eastern District of Virginia in the line of succession (meaning the power of oversight over the Mueller investigation), though. Newsweek described the convoluted route it would take to get there: Rod Rosenstein being fired by Trump, Associate AG Rachel Brand stepping aside, and Jeff Sessions skipping over the assistant AGs.
Even if it’s not part of a scheme to ultimately get rid of Mueller, the Boente resignation does give Trump a chance to stock the office with a supporter.
Mueller Has Made So Much Progress in the Investigation That He Doesn’t Need Boente
As an Obama holdover, Boente is perceived as sympathetic to the Mueller quest. Thus, some are speculating that he merely wanted to retire but didn’t want to do so until Mueller’s investigation was far enough along. This is the theory of the Palmer Report blog, which wrote, “Boente is finally exiting because Special Counsel Robert Mueller has progressed so far, he no longer needs Boente’s services.”
Mueller’s grand juries run out of the Eastern District of Virginia. Theorizes Palmer Report, “Boente – an Obama appointee – can now safely bail on working for a Trump administration he clearly opposes, with his role in the investigation now complete.”
Maybe He Just Retired
It’s possible, of course, that, despite the odd timing, Boente decided he was just ready to retire. He’s said, after all, that he will stay in the post until a successor is announced, and he’s made no statements suggesting any negative reason for quitting. He was already 62 when he was named acting AG.