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June 1, 2020, 3:58 p.m. EDT

Thirty-eight-year Justice Department career of FBI’s top lawyer ends after criticism from Trump backers and on Fox News

Dana Boente was briefly acting attorney general after Sally Yates’s ouster and before Jeff Sessions’s Senate confirmation

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By Associated Press


Getty Images
The official seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquarters.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, who has spent nearly 40 years with the Justice Department but has been targeted for criticism over the last year by some conservative commentators and supporters of President Donald Trump for his role in the Russia investigation, is leaving the bureau.

Boente has most recently served as the FBI’s general counsel but has held a variety of roles in his 38-year Justice Department career, including acting attorney general in the early days of the Trump administration, a United States attorney in Virginia and the acting head of the department’s national security division.

‘Throughout his long and distinguished career as a public servant, Dana has demonstrated a selfless determination to ensure that justice is always served on behalf of our citizens.’

Christopher Wray, FBI director

The FBI said that Boente had given notice on Friday that he intended to retire effective June 30, the bureau said.

“Throughout his long and distinguished career as a public servant, Dana has demonstrated a selfless determination to ensure that justice is always served on behalf of our citizens,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement announcing Boente’s departure. “We should all be grateful for his dedication to the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the American people.”

Boente became acting attorney general in early 2017 after Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, was fired after refusing to defend the president’s travel ban, and remained in that role until Jeff Sessions was installed.

As a top Justice Department official, he approved one of three applications to renew secret surveillance warrants targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. A Justice Department inspector general report from December said those applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had significant errors and omissions that cut against the FBI’s premise that Page, who was never charged with any wrongdoing, was an agent of a foreign power.

The report said that Boente and other Justice Department officials “did not have accurate and complete information” from the FBI at the time they approved them.

Even so, Boente has nonetheless been criticized by conservative figures for his involvement in the Russia probe.

A Facebook post in February from the conservative group Judicial Watch announced that its president, Tom Fitton, would appear on Fox Business News with host Lou Dobbs to discuss topics including “the discovery that the FBI’s Chief Legal Counsel, Dana Boente, participated in fraudulent FISA warrants on Carter Page.”

In April, Dobbs himself alleged that Boente and Wray were blocking the disclosure of “exculpatory” information about former Trump national-security adviser Michael Flynn. The FBI and Justice Department denied that that was the case.

NBC News first reported Boente’s departure and said he had been asked to resign by the Justice Department. Wray’s statement made no mention of that. The Justice Department declined to comment over the weekend.

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