FBI's top lawyer, Dana Boente, ousted amid Fox News criticism for role in Flynn investigation

Boente was asked to resign on Friday and two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss him said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Image: Dana Boente, acting U.S. attorney general, listens during a county sheriff listening session
Dana Boente during a county sheriff listening session with President Donald Trump at the White House on Feb. 7, 2017.Andrew Harrer / Pool via Getty Images file

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By Julia Ainsley and Pete Williams

After a 38-year career with the Justice Department, the FBI's top lawyer Dana Boente was asked to resign on Friday. Two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss Boente said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

His departure comes on the heels of recent criticism by Fox News for his role in the investigation of former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

A spokesman for the FBI confirmed to NBC News that Boente did in fact resign on Friday.

Fox News has recently criticized Boente's role in the investigation of Flynn, whose criminal charge for lying to the FBI was recently dropped by the Justice Department based in part on the argument that his lies were not material to an underlying investigation.

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Boente also said in a recently leaked memo that material put into the public record about Flynn was not exculpatory for the former national security advisor. The memo undermines the Justice Department's latest position that material about Flynn was mishandled by prosecutors.

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said on April 27 that, "Shocking new reports suggest F.B.I. General Counsel Dana Boente was acting in coordination with F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray to block the release of that evidence that would have cleared General Flynn."

Wray formally asked for Boente's resignation, but the decision to end his tenure at the FBI came from Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, according to two sources.

A spokesman for the FBI said Boente announced on Friday his decision to retire, which will take effect June 30.

"Few people have served so well in so many critical, high-level roles at the Department," Wray said in a statement. "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."

In a joint statement on Sunday, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Va., said Boente was a “dedicated and experienced career civil servant.” They said that if Boente was pushed out as retribution for his role in the Flynn investigation, “[he] appears to be one more victim of the Attorney General’s disturbing crusade to turn the Department of Justice into another arm of the president’s political campaign.”

CORRECTION (May 30, 2020, 6:43 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the target of FISA warrants signed by Dana Boente. The warrants involved President Donald Trump’s former campaign advisor Carter Page, not former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The reference to the warrants has been removed.