Robert Mueller interviews FBI's top lawyer to see if Donald Trump obstructed justice

Meetings suggests special counsel has gone to some lengths to corroborate James Comey‘s account of White House affairs

Dana Boente previously served the president in a variety of high-ranking roles
Dana Boente previously served the president in a variety of high-ranking roles

Dana Boente, the former acting attorney general who now serves as general counsel at the FBI, has been interviewed by the special counsel’s office and turned over handwritten notes that could be a piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation into whether Donald Trump obstructed justice, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr Boente was interviewed some months ago by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on a wide range of topics, including his recollections of what former FBI director James Comey told him about troubling interactions with Mr Trump, one of the people said.

Mr Mueller, a former FBI director, is investigation allegations of collusion between Mr Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.

The interview is significant because it shows how Mr Mueller is exploring whether the president obstructed justice and keying in on conversations Mr Trump had with his former FBI director about the probe involving his presidential campaign. It also shows the extent to which Mr Mueller has gone to corroborate Mr Comey’s account.

Mr Trump has accused Mr Comey of lying about their conversations, although Mr Comey has said he kept contemporaneous memos documenting the interactions.

Mr Boente – who stepped in to defend Mr Trump’s travel ban when acting attorney general Sally Yates refused to do so, earning a personal thank-you from the president – might be viewed as a witness more friendly to the Republican. He was appointed as US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia in the Obama administration, but he went on to serve in a variety of high-ranking, acting roles under Mr Trump, including acting attorney general, acting deputy attorney general and head of the justice department’s national security division.

However, he is not an eyewitness to Mr Trump and Mr Comey’s interaction. He can only corroborate that what Mr Comey told him lines up with what the former FBI director wrote in his memos and later told Congress.

Mr Comey has said publicly that he relayed to Mr Boente the 30 March 2017 conversation in which Mr Trump complained to him that the “cloud” of the investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia was interfering with his ability to govern and that he hoped they could publicise the fact that he was not personally under investigation.

At that time, Mr Mueller had yet to be appointed, though the FBI was investigating the matter. Mr Boente was then the acting deputy attorney general and was overseeing the investigation because attorney general Jeff Sessions had recused himself. In that role, he signed a controversial, secret court application to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.

Mr Comey has also said publicly that Mr Trump, in an earlier conversation, asked him to let go the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, though he said he did not immediately relay that request to justice department leadership. At the time, Mr Sessions had not yet recused himself.

The people familiar with the matter said Mr Boente also gave to Mr Mueller notes he had made memorialising his own conversation with Mr Comey. The notes, which were first shown on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and confirmed as authentic to The Washington Post by a person familiar with them, seem to confirm that what Mr Comey told Mr Boente in the spring of 2017 was consistent with what Mr Comey later told Congress about his interactions with Mr Trump.

Mr Comey has said that in April 2017 Mr Trump again asked him about publicising the fact that he was not personally under investigation and he told the president that he had passed on his request to Mr Boente. He said Mr Trump asked whether his people should also reach out and he responded that the White House counsel’s office should make the request. White House counsel Donald McGahn later did so, but failed to convince Mr Boente that the department should issue a public statement.

The Washington Post

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