U.S.

Dana Boente, the Quiet Man Donald Trump Tapped to Head the Justice Department

danaboente
Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is pictured in this undated handout photo. The United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia/Handout via Reuters

Dana Boente is the Acting Attorney General of the United States. But who is he?

The 62-year-old was thrust into the national spotlight on Monday night when President Donald Trump fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general and a holdover from the Obama administration. When Yates declared earlier in the day that she would not instruct the Justice Department to defend the president’s controversial executive order temporarily blocking immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations, the Trump White House swung into action, immediately tapping Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who was reportedly sworn in by 9:00 PM. His tenure may be short-lived; Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is scheduled to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday morning, although in light of the Yates dramatic firing that vote could well be delayed.

Boente is a widely respected prosecutor, who was tapped by President Obama to become the U.S. Attorney in the fall of 2015. A career Justice Department attorney, he concentrated on tax cases at the Justice Department’s Tax Division and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in that Eastern District of Virginia office.

“I am honored to serve President Trump in this role until Senator Sessions is confirmed,” Boente said in the statement emailed by the White House. “I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected.”

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch called Boente "one of the Justice Department’s consummate utility players” when he took the oath in the Eastern District in 2015, according to the Washington Post.

“He is that most reliable middle child, the one you could always count on to be there for you,” Lynch said.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia is one of the most important of the 94 U.S. Attorneys because it often prosecutes national security and public corruption cases in Washington. Boente prosecuted a Democratic Congressman, William Jefferson, as well as the former governor of Virginia, Robert McConnell. And the EDVA is where Edward Snowden would be tried if he returned to the United States.

In his statement on the firing, President Trump called Yates “weak on borders” and said she had “betrayed the Justice Department” and dissed her as an “Obama” AG. In fact, Yates had joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta in 2004, when President George W. Bush was in office, and subsequently led the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, the Olympic bomber. She was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Obama and then elevated to be Deputy Attorney General. The Trump administration asked Yates to remain at Justice until its nominee, Sessions, could be sworn in.

For his part, Boente's story is that of the kind of esteemed career prosecutor who rarely gets a lot of public attention. He was born and raised in the midwest, the son of a single mother. He got a B.A., MBA, and J.D. from St. Louis University. Boente was an Eagle Scout.

In 2015, Boente told the Senate Judiciary Committee how he spent his time: “From 1984 to 2005, my practice was primarily devoted to the investigation and prosecution of federal criminal offenses. In 2005, when I became the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Tax Division, my practice was largely devoted to the supervision of criminal investigations and prosecutions. I estimate that thirty percent of my time was spent on administrative and civil matters.

From 2007 to present, as the United States Attorney and the First Assistant United States Attorney, I have responsibility for the criminal and civil litigation conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office. I estimate that I spend fifteen percent of my time on civil matters, seventy percent on criminal matters and fifteen percent on administrative matters. I spend a significant amount of the criminal portion on national security issues and cybercrime, which occupy an increasing and important portion of the practice.”

A glance at the Eastern District of Virginia’s website shows a panoply of cases including drug dealers, murder for hire, embezzlement and so on. In all likelihood Boente will return to being the U.S. Attorney full time once an Attorney General is appointed. Whether a new Trump attorney general might replace Boente, who like all U.S. Attorneys serves at the pleasure of the president, is unclear.

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