MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is the most insightful person on television. So we were a bit surprised when she announced during her Thursday evening show that she still hasn’t figured out why Donald Trump repeatedly promoted U.S. Attorney Dana Boente, who played a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation, only to end up firing him. This seemed odd, because Palmer Report put those pieces together a long time ago.
President Obama appointed Dana Boente as a U.S. Attorney in 2012, and he ended up serving in the Eastern District of Virginia. Just days before Obama left office, he issued an order which served no other purpose than to move Boente further down in the Department of Justice order of succession. It felt like an unusually simplistic and ham fisted move on Obama’s part, as he was telegraphing his distrust of Boente a little too well, and sure enough, as soon as Donald Trump took office, he issued a new order moving Boente back up the order of succession. That’s when we figured it out.
By the time Obama issued the order, Jeff Sessions was in trouble in the Trump-Russia scandal, and the odds were increasing that someone would end up serving as acting Attorney General. Boente was always an Obama guy. Obama issued that order as a way of tricking Trump into believing he didn’t trust Boente, so that Trump would trust Boente. After all, Trump has consistently shown himself to be obsessed with going against Obama’s wishes, and surrounding himself with Obama’s enemies.
Trump ended up not only moving Dana Boente back up the order of succession, but also keeping Boente in place as the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia even as he was firing dozens of other Obama-era U.S. Attorneys. Even as this was going on, the FBI was secretly targeting Michael Flynn in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he was ultimately indicted by a grand jury. Boente was obviously on the side of the FBI, or else he wouldn’t have gone along with the prosecution of Flynn. The FBI clearly trusted Boente, which is why it got the ball rolling in his district instead of the closer-to-home Washington DC district.
Donald Trump didn’t put any of this together until the day the media announced that unknown individuals were about to be arrested in the Trump-Russia scandal. Suddenly, Trump fired Dana Boente, apparently having finally figured out that Boente had been working against him, and with the FBI and Robert Mueller, all along. President Obama simply head-faked Trump into trusting Boente, and it worked long enough to get the Trump-Russia indictments underway.
In a notable side note, after Donald Trump and his allies tried to weaken the FBI by forcing FBI General Counsel James Baker out of a job, Trump’s own handpicked FBI Director Christopher Wray responded by hiring Dana Boente as the new FBI General Counsel. This seemed to have been Wray’s way of establishing his independence from Trump, while bringing someone with relevant experience in the Trump-Russia investigation deeper into the fold.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report