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Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the head of the FBI, the United States' primary federal law enforcement agency, and is responsible for its day-to-day operations. The FBI Director is appointed for a single 10-year term by the President and confirmed by the Senate.[1][2][3] The FBI is an agency of the Department of Justice.[4] Since the 1920s, the FBI has been supervised by the Department of Justice and the FBI Director has answered to the Attorney General. The Director briefed the President on any issues that arose from within the FBI until the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 was enacted following the September 11 attacks. Since then, the Director reports to the Director of National Intelligence, who in turn reports to the President.[5]

Director of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg
Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Flag of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg
Flag of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Chris Wray official photo.jpg
Christopher A. Wray

since August 2, 2017
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Reports to Attorney General
Director of National Intelligence
Seat J. Edgar Hoover Building, District of Columbia, U.S.
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length 10 years
Inaugural holder Stanley Finch (BOI)
J. Edgar Hoover (FBI)
Formation 1908 (as Chief of the BOI)
Deputy Deputy Director

The current Director is Christopher A. Wray, who assumed the role on August 2, 2017 after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, taking over from acting Director Andrew McCabe after the dismissal of former Director James Comey by President Donald Trump.[6]


Term of officeEdit

The FBI Director is appointed by the President and, since 1972, subject to confirmation by the Senate.[2][3] J. Edgar Hoover, appointed by President Calvin Coolidge to the predecessor office of Director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, was by far the longest-serving Director, holding the position from its establishment under the current title in 1935 until his death in 1972. In 1976, in response to Hoover's lengthy tenure and during the Watergate era, by an amendment to the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control Act,[7][8] Congress limited the term of future FBI directors to ten years, "an unusually long tenure that Congress established to insulate the director from political pressure."[9] This rule was waived by the Senate for Robert Mueller on July 27, 2011 due to serious security concerns at that time.[10] Since 1976, Directors serve a ten-year term unless they resign, die, or are removed, but in practice, since Hoover, none have served a full ten years, except Mueller who served twelve years with the leave of Congress.

The Director can be removed from office by the President.[6] Since the Director serves "at the pleasure of the President", the removal from office can be either with or without cause.[citation needed] After removal until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate, the Deputy Director automatically acts in the role. The appointment of the Deputy Director is not a presidential appointment and does not require Senate confirmation. The President can appoint an Interim Director pending Senate confirmation[11] or nomination of permanent Director.[12]


Along with the Deputy Director, the Director is responsible for ensuring that cases and operations are handled correctly. The Director also is in charge of staffing the leadership in any one of the FBI field offices with qualified agents.

Lists of officeholdersEdit

Bureau of Investigation chiefs and directors (1908 to 1935)Edit

When the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) was established in 1908, its head was called the Chief of the Bureau of Investigation.[13] It was changed to the Director of the Bureau of Investigation in the term of William J. Flynn (1919–1921), and to its current name when the BOI was renamed FBI in 1935.

Picture Name Term[13] Length Notes President(s)*
1   Finch, StanleyStanley Finch July 26, 1908 – April 30, 1912 3 years, 279 days Theodore Roosevelt; William H. Taft
2   Bielaski, A. BruceA. Bruce Bielaski April 30, 1912 – February 10, 1919 6 years, 286 days William H. Taft; Woodrow Wilson
  Allen, William E.William E. Allen February 10, 1919 – June 30, 1919 140 days Acting Director Woodrow Wilson
3   Flynn, William J.William J. Flynn July 1, 1919 – August 21, 1921 2 years, 51 days Woodrow Wilson; Warren Harding
4   Burns, William J.William J. Burns August 22, 1921 – May 10, 1924 2 years, 262 days Resigned Warren Harding; Calvin Coolidge
5   Hoover, J. EdgarJ. Edgar Hoover May 10, 1924 – June 30, 1935 11 years, 51 days Director of the BOI Calvin Coolidge; Herbert Hoover; Franklin D. Roosevelt

Federal Bureau of Investigation directors (1935 to present)Edit

The FBI became an independent service within the Department of Justice in 1935.[14] In the same year, its name was officially changed to the present-day Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, with J. Edgar Hoover receiving the current title of Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Picture Name Term[13] Length Notes President(s)*
1   Hoover, J. EdgarJ. Edgar Hoover July 1, 1935 – May 2, 1972 36 years, 306 days Director of the FBI; died from a heart attack at his Washington, D.C., home on May 2, 1972; Only FBI director to have died in office Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman; Dwight Eisenhower; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson; Richard Nixon
  Tolson, ClydeClyde Tolson May 2, 1972 – May 3, 1972 1 day Acting Director of the FBI Richard Nixon
  Gray, L. PatrickL. Patrick Gray May 3, 1972 – April 27, 1973 359 days
  Ruckelshaus, WilliamWilliam Ruckelshaus April 30, 1973 – July 9, 1973 70 days
2   Kelley, Clarence M.Clarence M. Kelley July 9, 1973 – February 15, 1978 4 years, 221 days Retired Richard Nixon; Gerald Ford; Jimmy Carter
  Adams, James B.James B. Adams February 15, 1978 – February 23, 1978 8 days Associate Director of the FBI; Acting Director Jimmy Carter
3   Webster, William H.William H. Webster February 23, 1978 – May 25, 1987 9 years, 91 days Left FBI to become Director of Central Intelligence; only person to have held both positions Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan
  Otto, John E.John E. Otto May 26, 1987 – November 2, 1987 160 days Deputy Director of the FBI; Acting Director Ronald Reagan
4   Sessions, William S.William S. Sessions November 2, 1987 – July 19, 1993 5 years, 259 days Dismissed by President Bill Clinton Ronald Reagan; George H.W. Bush; Bill Clinton
  Clarke, Floyd I.Floyd I. Clarke July 19, 1993 – September 1, 1993 44 days Deputy Director of the FBI; Acting Director Bill Clinton
5   Freeh, LouisLouis Freeh September 1, 1993 – June 25, 2001 7 years, 297 days Resigned Bill Clinton; George W. Bush
  Pickard, Thomas J.Thomas J. Pickard June 25, 2001 – September 4, 2001 71 days Deputy Director of the FBI; Acting Director George W. Bush
6   Mueller, RobertRobert Mueller September 4, 2001 – September 4, 2013 12 years, 0 days George W. Bush; Barack Obama
7   Comey, JamesJames Comey September 4, 2013 – May 9, 2017 3 years, 247 days Dismissed by President Donald Trump Barack Obama; Donald Trump
  Andrew McCabe May 9, 2017 – August 2, 2017 85 days Deputy Director of the FBI; Acting Director Donald Trump
8   Christopher A. Wray August 2, 2017 – present 169 days 110 days

*Senate confirmation of nominee was required after 1972.

Line of successionEdit

The line of succession for the Director of the FBI is as follows:[15]

  1. Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  2. Associate Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  3. Executive Assistant Director of the National Security Branch
  4. Executive Assistant Director for Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services
  5. Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Division
  6. Assistant Director of Criminal Investigative Division
  7. Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Division
  8. Assistant Director, Washington Field Office
  9. Assistant Director, New York Field Office
  10. Assistant Director, Los Angeles Field Office


Since the office's inception, only two Directors have been dismissed: William S. Sessions by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and James Comey by President Donald Trump in 2017. It is accepted that the holder of this post serves at the pleasure of the President.[16]

William S. SessionsEdit

Just before Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993, allegations of ethical improprieties were made against Sessions. A report by outgoing Attorney General William P. Barr presented to the Justice Department that month by the Office of Professional Responsibility included criticisms that he had used an FBI plane to travel to visit his daughter on several occasions, and had a security system installed in his home at government expense.[17] Janet Reno, the 78th Attorney General of the United States, announced that Sessions had exhibited "serious deficiencies in judgment."[18]

Although Sessions denied that he had acted improperly, he was pressured to resign in early July, with some suggesting that President Clinton was giving Sessions the chance to step down in a dignified manner. Sessions refused, saying that he had done nothing wrong, and insisted on staying in office until his successor was confirmed. As a result, President Clinton dismissed Sessions on July 19, 1993, five and a half years into a ten-year term. Clinton’s public explanation was that there had been a loss of confidence in Sessions’ leadership, and then-Attorney General Reno recommended the dismissal.[19]

Ronald Kessler's book, The FBI: Inside the World's Most Powerful Law Enforcement Agency, led to the dismissal by President Clinton of Sessions as FBI director over his abuses. According to the Washington Post, "A Justice Department official...noted that the original charges against Sessions came not from FBI agents but from a journalist, Ronald Kessler [who uncovered the abuses while writing a book about the FBI, leading to Sessions' dismissal by President Clinton]..."[20] The New York Times said Kessler's FBI book "did indeed trigger bureau and Justice Department investigations into alleged travel and expense abuses [by FBI Director William Sessions, leading to his departure]...[21]

Clinton nominated Louis Freeh to be FBI Director on July 20. Then–FBI Deputy Director, Floyd I. Clarke, who Sessions suggested had led a coup to force his removal, served as Acting Director until September 1, 1993, when Freeh was sworn in.[22]

James ComeyEdit

On May 9, 2017, President Trump dismissed Comey after the recommendation of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.[23] Rosenstein's memorandum to Sessions objected to Comey's conduct in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.[24] This was contradicted by multiple unnamed sources to news outlets, who said that Trump and high-level officials personally asked for Comey to be fired.[25][26] Comey was fired after he asked for more money for the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[27] Many members of Congress, mostly Democrats, expressed concern over the firing and argued that it would put the integrity of the investigation into jeopardy.[28]

Comey's termination was immediately controversial, even being characterized as corrupt by some news commentators. It was compared, by the aforementioned news outlets, to the Saturday Night Massacre, President Richard Nixon's termination of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been investigating the Watergate scandal,[29][30] and to the firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates in January 2017.

In the dismissal letter Trump stated that Comey had asserted “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.”[31]This is disputed by reporting from multiple news agencies with multiple sources. According to the reporting, Trump had been openly talking about firing Mr. Comey for at least a week before his dismissal. Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment. Moreover, Trump was angry that Comey would not support his claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped, frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election and that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not to internal leaks within the government. On May 8, 2017, he gave Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein a directive to explain in writing a case against Comey. That directive was forwarded to Trump as a recommendation to dismiss Comey the following day, which Trump did.[32][33][34]

Comey first learned of his termination from television news reports that flashed on screen while he was delivering a speech to agents at the Los Angeles Field Office.[35] Sources said he was surprised and caught off guard by the termination. Comey immediately departed for Washington, D.C., and was forced to cancel his scheduled speech that night at an FBI recruitment event at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood, California.[36]

In the absence of a Senate-confirmed FBI Director, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe automatically became the Acting Director.[37]


  1. ^ "Directors, Then and Now". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 21 March 2017. On October 15, 1976, in reaction to the extraordinary 48-year term of J. Edgar Hoover, Congress passed Public Law 94-503, limiting the FBI Director to a single term of no longer than 10 years. 
  2. ^ a b 28 U.S.C. §532 note. Confirmation and Compensation of Director; Term of Service Legal Information Institute
  3. ^ a b FBI Director: Appointment and Tenure Congressional Research Service
  4. ^
  5. ^ FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress
  6. ^ a b New York Times, May 9, 2017, F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump
  7. ^ Kutner, Max (May 4, 2017). "Can President Donald Trump Fire FBI Director James Comey". Newsweek. 
  8. ^ Chesney, Robert (May 10, 2017). "Backgrounder: The Power to Appoint & Remove the FBI Director". Lawfare Blog. 
  9. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Apuzzo, Matt (May 9, 2017). "F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Senate Extends Term of F.B.I. Director". New York Times. 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  11. ^ Top Officials Being Interviewed for Interim FBI Director After James Comey’s Ouster
  12. ^ Interim FBI director likely to be named as soon as Wednesday
  13. ^ a b c "The FBI Director: Background on the Position". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2011-02-07. 
  14. ^ "Timeline of FBI History". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 16 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Designation of Officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation". Federal Register. 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2016-10-30. 
  16. ^ Ostrow, Ronald J.; Jackson, Robert L. (1993-07-20). "Defiant FBI Chief Is Fired by President : Law enforcement: Alleged ethical abuses by Sessions are cited as reason for dismissal. He refused to resign". Los Angeles Times. 
  17. ^ Johnston, David (1993-01-19). "F.B.I. Chief Plans to Fight for Job". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ "Time's Up for William Sessions". The New York Times. 1993-01-22. 
  19. ^ How independent is the FBI’s director?
  20. ^ Washington Post, June 19, 1993, p. A1; Washington Post, July 20, 1993, p. A1.
  21. ^ MacKenzie, John (September 12, 1993). "How the G-Men Measure Up Now". New York Times. 
  22. ^ Johnston, David (1993-07-20) "Defiant FBI chief removed from job by the President", New York Times.
  23. ^ Michael D. Shear; Matt Apuzzo (10 May 2017). "Trump Fires Comey Amid Russia Inquiry – Clinton Email Investigation Cited – Democrats Seek Special Counsel". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 
  24. ^ Smith, David (2017-05-09). "Donald Trump fires FBI director Comey over handling of Clinton investigation". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-09. 
  25. ^ Sommer, Will (2017-05-09). "Sessions was told to find reasons to fire Comey: reports". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  26. ^ Pramuk, Jacob (2017-05-09). "Justice Department was told to come up with reasons to fire Comey, reports say". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  27. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew; Apuzzo, Matt (May 10, 2017). "Days Before He Was Fired, Comey Asked for Money for Russia Investigation". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 
  28. ^ "Comey firing: Reaction from members of Congress on FBI director's dismissal". Washington Post. 
  29. ^ Wilstein, Matt (May 9, 2017). "CNN's Jeffrey Toobin Goes Off on Trump for Firing Comey: 'What Kind of Country Is This?'". The Daily Beast. 
  30. ^ Abbruzzese, Jason (May 9, 2017). "Everyone is comparing Donald Trump to Richard Nixon". The Silicon Times. 
  31. ^ Associated Press (May 9, 2017). "FBI Director James Comey fired by President Trump". Fox59. 
  32. ^ Haberman, Maggie; Thrush, Glenn (10 May 2017). "'Enough Was Enough': How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2017. 
  33. ^ Dawsey, Josh. "'He got tired of him'". POLITICO. Retrieved 11 May 2017. 
  34. ^ Rucker, Philip; Parker, Ashley; Barrett, Devlin; Costa, Robert. "Inside Trump's anger and impatience – and his sudden decision to fire Comey". Washington Post. 
  35. ^ The Associated Press (2017-05-09). "The Latest: Comey Learned of Ouster as He Spoke at FBI in LA". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  36. ^ Winton, Richard; Queally, James (2017-05-09). "Comey was 'caught flat-footed' and learned of firing from TV while talking to FBI agents in L.A., source says". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  37. ^ "Trump fires Comey: McCabe takes over as FBI's acting director". Fox News. 2017-05-09. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 

External linksEdit