President Donald Trump made the controversial move to “terminate and remove from office” the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday.
The move shocked many in Washington, D.C., and across the country, although Trump did have support from some.
Former FBI Director James Comey had been under fire for the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email scandal during the 2016 election, which is one of the reasons Trump gave for his dismissal.
Opponents of the move, many of whom are Democrats who called for Comey’s ouster long before Trump took office, said the timing of the firing was suspect due to the ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
The act of a president removing the head of the FBI is extremely unusual, but it has happened before.
The last (and only) president to remove an FBI director:
In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton removed FBI Director William Sessions from office after he refused to step down in the wake of an ethics investigation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, it was the only time a president had ever removed an FBI director from office.
In a July 19, 1993, meeting with reporters, Clinton said he had “hoped very much that this matter could be resolved within the Justice Department.”
According to a report from the U.S. Office of Professional Responsibility, Sessions “participated in a sham arrangement designed to evade income taxes on his government-provided home-to-work transportation … improperly used government funds to install a fence at his residence … repeatedly transported non-official passengers in his official limousine and other FBI vehicles … abused governmental travel for personal purposes … (and) refused to cooperate in, and affirmatively blocked, our investigation.”
FBI director term limits:
Following J. Edgar Hoover’s 48-year term as FBI director, Congress passed Public Law 94-503, which limits the director from serving more than 10 years.
The law does not require that he or she serve 10 years, and with the exception of Hoover, none but Robert S. Mueller III has served the entire term.
What happens now?
According to the Federal Register, if an FBI director dies, resigns or is removed from office, the deputy director is named acting director.
Until Trump appoints – and the Senate approves – a new FBI director, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will be acting director.
If McCabe dies, resigns or is removed from office before a new FBI director is appointed, the line of succession continues as follows:
- Associate Deputy Director of the FBI (David Bowdich)
- Executive Assistant Director for Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services (Paul Abbate)
- Assistant directors in the following order: Counterterrorism Division (Bradley “Grant” Mendenhall), Criminal Investigative Division (Stephen E. Richardson), Counterintelligence Division (Bill Priestap), Washington Field Office (Andrew Vale), New York Field Office (William F. Sweeney, Jr.) and Los Angeles Field Office (Deirdre Fike)
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