Near the end of President Obama’s tenure, he signed an executive order which changed the line of succession at the Department of Justice for the sole purpose of demoting U.S. Attorney Dana Boente in that line. It seemed odd, both because Boente was a fairly recent Obama appointee, and because it was an uncharacteristically feeble move which Donald Trump was quickly able to undo. But based on recent developments, Obama may have been baiting Trump into doing precisely that.
After a series of chaotic moves including the recusal of Jeff Sessions and the departure of Mary McCord, yesterday it was rather predictably announced that Dana Boente has taken over the Trump-Russia investigation at the DOJ. The development seemed inevitable. After all, Obama had telegraphed that Boente was the one guy he didn’t trust to prosecute Trump-Russia properly, so of course Trump eagerly put Boente in charge of the investigation. But here’s the thing.
Hours after Boente took over, a report leaked out that multiple Trump-Russia grand juries are underway (link). Based on initial impressions, it appears Boente is handling the investigation properly and aggressively. And in hindsight, perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, Boente is someone whom President Obama clearly trusted when he appointed him back in 2014. So why on earth did Obama make a big show of demoting Boente before leaving office? That’s the key here.
Obama’s executive order didn’t actually remove Boente from his job or change anything about his position. All it did was state that Boente would be passed over if recusals began. So Obama did’t punish Boente in any real world sense; he merely created the appearance that he had. And it may have been enough to bait Trump into concluding that Obama didn’t trust Boente, and therefore Trump should trust Boente. If this was the plan all along, it means the person in charge of prosecuting Trump-Russia is precisely whom Obama wanted in charge of it all along – and now it’s realistically too late for Trump to stop it. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report