Removal of FBI Director James Comey: Presidential Authority and the Senate's Role in the Appointment of the FBI Director [May 10, 2017]   [open pdf - 115KB]

"On May 9, 2017, President Trump removed the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), James Comey, from office. Comey had served as Director since September 2013. A 1976 federal law provides that the FBI Director is limited to a ten-year term of service and may not serve more than a single ten-year term. It does not, however, impose any restrictions on the President's authority to remove the Director. The only prior instance of a President removing an FBI Director before a term's expiration was in 1993, when President Clinton removed William Sessions after a report concluded that he had committed various ethics violations. As a constitutional and legal matter, it is widely recognized that the President generally enjoys broad authority to remove the heads of executive branch agencies, including the FBI Director. The Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel reached this conclusion in a prior legal opinion. The Constitution balances this power, however, by requiring Senate confirmation of nominations of 'principal officers' to vacant positions, a political process that can impact informal understandings of the requirements for certain federal government positions. Thus, while the President has the constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, the Senate will play a critical role in the appointment of a successor."

Report Number:
CRS Legal Sidebar, May 10, 2017
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html
Media Type:
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