A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty

Trump’s ouster of U.S. Attorney Dana Boente matters

In March, Donald Trump summarily fired 46 U.S. Attorneys, without warning or explanation. Of particular interest was Preet Bharara, who had jurisdiction over Trump Tower, and who’d been specifically told he could stay on at his post.

Then, for reasons the White House hasn’t shared, the president and his team changed their minds, and showed Bharara and dozens of his fellow federal prosecutors the door, without having any of their successors lined up.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/27/17, 10:00 PM ET

Russia charges cast U.S. attorney Boente resignation in new light

Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, talks with Rachel Maddow about what might be inferred from the surprise resignation of U.S. attorney Dana Boente at the same time as reports of the first charges in the Robert Mueller’s Trump Russia investigation.
Trump did not, however, replace literally all of the Obama-era U.S. Attorneys: Dana Boente was allowed to stay on. Late last week, as NBC News reported, that changed, too.

Dana Boente, one of the nation’s most high-profile federal prosecutors, has submitted his resignation after he was asked to step down to make way for a successor to be named by President Donald Trump. […]

Boente, who has served in the Justice Department for three decades, became the U.S. attorney in 2015 during the Obama administration. A well-regarded veteran prosecutor, he became acting attorney general in January after Trump fired Sally Yates, who refused to enforce the first executive order restricting travel.

At first blush, this may not seem especially important. After all, presidents routinely appoint their own slate of federal prosecutors, so it may seem as if Boente is just part of a larger pattern.

But there’s more to this one: Boente, like Bharara, was in a position to investigate the president when Trump decided unexpectedly to fire him.

Rachel noted on Friday’s show, for example, that Boente was the person former FBI Director James Comey reported to when, according to Comey, Trump was trying to pressure him as part of the investigation into the Russia scandal. It’s led to some speculation that Boente could even be a potential witness in the matter.

But even putting that aside, as Rachel also noted on Friday’s show, it was Dana Boente’s office from which we saw the subpoenas related to Paul Manafort. It was Dana Boente’s office from which we saw the subpoenas related to Mike Flynn. It was Dana Boente’s office that has been handling the investigation into WikiLeaks – and potentially charges associated with WikiLeaks.

And it was through Dana Boente’s office where Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal, first started using a grand jury.

Dana Boente, in other words, has been at the center of a legal/political hurricane, and from what we know, he did not want to leave his post. Trump ousted him anyway.

This is the same president who’s taken the unprecedented step of meeting privately with prospective federal prosecutors before nominating them to posts where Trump may personally face legal jeopardy.

I realize there are a lot of scandals swirling around Trump World right now, but if you’re overlooking the president’s handling of these U.S. Attorneys, you’re missing a jarring controversy for which there is no good explanation.

Donald Trump and Justice Department

Trump's ouster of U.S. Attorney Dana Boente matters