Dana Boente To Become FBI General Counsel (Sari Horwitz/Matt Zapotosky)
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, who has been under political pressure to remove top officials at the bureau, is filling two senior positions previously held by people who served under former director James B. Comey.
Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia who is acting head of the Justice Department’s national security division, has been selected to be the FBI’s next general counsel, according to three people familiar with the matter. He replaces James Baker, who was reassigned late last year.
Boente is a veteran federal prosecutor who has led multiple U.S. attorneys offices around the country and has risen to prominence in a variety of acting roles in the Trump administration. When President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates over her refusal to defend his travel ban, Boente took over and said he would defend the measure.
When Jeff Sessions was sworn in to the job, Boente became the deputy attorney general, and after that, the head of the national security division.
Boente’s move to the FBI is notable because some might view him as a Trump loyalist who has shown himself willing to go along with the president’s controversial agenda, and he now might be able to advocate the president’s position inside an institution that is supposed to enjoy independence. Because he is a political appointee, he will have to clear some hurdles before taking a career position. Boente, though, is a respected law enforcement figure who has not been overtly political. He was appointed as a U.S. attorney under President Obama.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Boente came to Wray’s attention, though the two would have worked together in recent months with Boente serving in a leadership post at the Justice Department.
A spokesman for Boente declined to comment.
Wray also will replace his chief of staff, Jim Rybicki, with Zachary J. Harmon, a colleague from the law firm where Wray was a partner before joining the bureau. Harmon is a former federal prosecutor who heads the anticorruption practice at King & Spaulding.
Before he came to the FBI, Rybicki served in various Justice Department offices since 2001. His last position was as deputy chief of staff for the Justice Department’s National security Division.
“Jim Rybicki notified me last month that he will be leaving the FBI to accept an opportunity in the corporate sector,” Wray said in a statement. “ . . . Jim will be dearly missed by the FBI family — and by me personally. His many years of dedication to the Bureau and (Justice Department), his level-headed judgment and earnest professionalism, and his steady good cheer have been an asset to us all and have contributed greatly to the safety and security of our nation.”
Wray said he worked closely with Harmon at King & Spaulding. When he was at the Justice Department in the deputy attorney general’s office, Harmon worked on counterterrorism and played a role helping the agency rebound from the Robert Hanssen espionage scandal. Hanssen, an FBI agent, was accused of leaking secrets to Russia over 22 years until his arrest in 2001. A Justice Department commission called the scandal “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.”
As a white-collar lawyer, Harmon has defended clients in government investigations and regulatory enforcement proceedings, according to his bio on the firm’s website. He is expected to leave King & Spaulding and join the FBI in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.
Harmon could not be reached for comment.
The moves come as Wray, who became the FBI director in August, has faced pressure from Sessions to make personnel changes. Wray has resisted calls to replace the FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of Trump’s.
As The Washington Post reported last month, McCabe plans to retire in March, when he becomes eligible for his full pension benefits.
Sessions and other members of the Trump administration have been saying for weeks that Wray should demote or reassign senior officials and aides to Comey, who Trump fired in May. Comey’s firing led to the appointment of a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining possible ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, and whether the president or others at the White House have obstructed justice.
Key Take-Away: This is simply a brilliant move. Dana Boente will leave his post to become General Counsel for the FBI. That literally is the largest middle finger Wray could send to The IDIOT and Jeff Sessions. The man that got the ball rolling on #Russiagate and was the lead in leading the first wave of Grand Juries into #Russiagate, will now serve as GC of the FBI. I’m almost certain this move was orchestrated by Mueller, McCabe and Comey. This is simply a brilliant move.
Now – Let’s Go Be Great! Let’s Go Find Some Good Trouble!