Since the end of the 48 year tenure of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, the office of FBI Director has been a Presidential appointment to a 10 year term with Senate confirmation. Of all the FBI directors who have been appointed and confirmed since then, only one has been fired by the President.
When Bill Clinton took office in January , 1993, his FBI Director was William S. Sessions, serving an appointment made by Ronald Reagan at the time of the Iran-Contra affair. Making it clear that the new President did not want the Republican FBI Director in his Administration, Clinton’s newly appointed Attorney General, Janet Reno, quietly pressured Mr. Sessions to resign.
This wasn’t a matter of mere partisanship. William Sessions was an awful FBI Director. According to the New York Times’ account of the matter, the Director loved the trappings and pomp of his high office, but took little interest in the actual job of running the FBI, leaving the critically important agency leaderless and adrift just as the mission was shifting, from counterintelligence against the newly fallen USSR, to defending against the specter of domestic and international terrorism. The FBI was devolving into warring internal factions.
Undercurrents of unrest surfaced last year when several complaints led to an internal inquiry by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal watchdog unit of the Justice Department.
The report found that Mr. Sessions had taken numerous free trips aboard F.B.I. aircraft to visits friends and relatives, often taking along his wife, Alice. The report, which was endorsed officially by Attorney General William P. Barr on his last day in office, detailed a litany of abuses. It is a lacerating portrayal of the Director as an official who was in charge of enforcing the law but who seemed blase about perceptions of his own conduct.
Having been, thus, excoriated by the outgoing Republican Administration of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton’s incoming Democratic Administration surprised no one in its ardor to see the last of Mr. Sessions. But the stubborn Republican FBI Director refused to go voluntarily, finally provoking Bill Clinton to telephone Mr. Sessions on July 20, 1993. The President called twice. The first call was to tell the Director he was fired. The second was to tell the Director it was effective immediately. That’s cold, man.
I hope the second President Clinton makes three telephone calls, if FBI Director, Comey, forces the issue by refusing to resign, like Sessions before him: Call #1. You’re fired. Call #2. It’s effective immediately. Call #3. Your escort out of the building is on its way to your office.