IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

FBI general counsel says in letter that Mueller asked him to testify in Russia probe

A second Justice Department letter certifies that Dana Boente's notes of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey are not classified.

Dana Boente, the FBI's general counsel who was in charge of the Russia investigation early in the Trump administration, has been asked to testify by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a letter obtained by MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

The letter from Boente to Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools is dated Jan. 2, when Boente was still acting head of the Justice Department's national security division. In the letter, Boente requests legal representation or reimbursement of his legal fees and says he doesn't believe that he is either a target or a subject of Mueller's inquiry.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government.

It couldn't be determined Tuesday night whether Boente has testified before Mueller's team, or what Mueller wanted to asked him about. But a separate letter sent to Boente by the FBI's counterintelligence division, dated Jan. 17 and also obtained by "The Rachel Maddow Show," certifies that handwritten notes that Boente took about a conversation with former FBI Director James Comey on March 30, 2017, aren't classified.

Comey, Boente, the Justice Department and the FBI all declined to comment, according to "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Dana Boente, then the acting U.S. attorney general, at a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in February 2017.Andrew Harrer / Pool, via Getty Images file

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, citing inaccurate testimony that Comey made before Congress about the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. Trump told NBC News at the time that the Russia investigation played no role in his decision to dismiss Comey, who at the time was in charge of the inquiry.

Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he informed Boente — who at the time was his boss — about two discussions he had with Trump about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, one of them the March 30 conversation and the other occurring on April 11.

Comey testified that in the March 30 conversation, Trump complained that the Russia investigation was "a cloud" that was "impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country" and asked whether Comey could "lift the cloud" by declaring publicly that Trump wasn't under investigation.

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the FBI's investigation into the Trump administration and its possible collusion with Russia during the campaign on June 8, 2017.Shawn Thew / EPA file

Democratic lawmakers and some legal experts have suggested that Trump's alleged comments to Comey in several conversations could be used to build an obstruction-of-justice case against the president.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Maddow on Tuesday night: "It does appear that the president may have been be trying to obstruct an investigation that could lead to him."

Boente, a holdover from the Obama administration, was briefly acting attorney general early last year, succeeding Sally Yates, whom Trump fired for refusing to enforce his immigration-related travel restrictions.

After Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general in February 2017, Boente became acting deputy attorney general, eventually overseeing the Russia investigation when Sessions recused himself. Boente, who remained U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, stepped down from the Justice Department in October after he was asked to make way for a successor chosen by Trump.

Boente was appointed general counsel of the FBI in January.