Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Seal of the FBI
Flag of the FBI
Christopher A. Wray
since August 2, 2017
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Reports toAttorney General
Director of National Intelligence
SeatJ. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthAt the pleasure of the President. (10 years by statute), renewable (only by the Senate)
FormationJuly 26, 1908
First holderStanley Finch
DeputyDeputy Director

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a United States 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 of the United States and confirmed by the Senate.[1][2][3] The FBI is an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ), and thus the director reports to the attorney general of the United States.[4]

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 in an additional capacity to the director of national intelligence, as the FBI is also part of the United States Intelligence Community.[5]

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

Term of office[edit]

The FBI director is appointed by the president and, since 1972, subject to confirmation by the Senate.[2][3][7] 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,[8][9] 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."[10] This rule was waived by the Senate for Robert Mueller on July 27, 2011, due to serious security concerns at that time.[11] 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 of the FBI can be removed from office by the president of the United States.[6] After removal and until a replacement is confirmed by the U.S. 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[12] or nominate a permanent director.[13]


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 officeholders[edit]

Bureau of Investigation chiefs and directors (1908–1935)[edit]

When the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) was established in 1908, its head was called Chief of the Bureau of Investigation.[14] 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.

Image Name Start End Duration President(s)
Stanley Finch July 26, 1908 April 30, 1912 3 years, 279 days Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
A. Bruce Bielaski April 30, 1912 February 10, 1919 6 years, 286 days William Howard Taft
Woodrow Wilson
William E. Allen
February 10, 1919 June 30, 1919 140 days Woodrow Wilson
William J. Flynn July 1, 1919 August 21, 1921 2 years, 51 days Woodrow Wilson
Warren G. Harding
William J. Burns August 22, 1921 May 10, 1924 2 years, 262 days Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
J. Edgar Hoover May 10, 1924 June 30, 1935 11 years, 51 days Calvin Coolidge
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Federal Bureau of Investigation directors (1935–present)[edit]

The FBI became an independent service within the Department of Justice in 1935.[15] In the same year, its name was officially changed to the present-day Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with J. Edgar Hoover receiving the current title of Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since 1972, the United States Senate has to confirm the nomination of a permanent officeholder. Frank Johnson had been nominated by Jimmy Carter in 1977, but withdrew for health reasons.[16]

Image Name Start End Duration President(s)
J. Edgar Hoover July 1, 1935 May 2, 1972 36 years, 306 days Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Clyde Tolson
May 2, 1972 May 3, 1972 1 day Richard Nixon
L. Patrick Gray
May 3, 1972 April 27, 1973 359 days Richard Nixon
Bill Ruckelshaus
April 30, 1973 July 9, 1973 70 days Richard Nixon
Clarence M. Kelley July 9, 1973 February 15, 1978 4 years, 221 days Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
James B. Adams
February 15, 1978 February 23, 1978 8 days Jimmy Carter
Bill Webster February 23, 1978 May 25, 1987 9 years, 91 days Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
John E. Otto
May 25, 1987 November 2, 1987 160 days Ronald Reagan
Bill Sessions November 2, 1987 July 19, 1993 5 years, 259 days Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Floyd I. Clarke
July 19, 1993 September 1, 1993 44 days Bill Clinton
Louis Freeh September 1, 1993 June 25, 2001 7 years, 297 days Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Thomas J. Pickard
June 25, 2001 September 4, 2001 71 days George W. Bush
Robert Mueller September 4, 2001 September 4, 2013 12 years, 0 days George W. Bush
Barack Obama
James Comey September 4, 2013 May 9, 2017 3 years, 247 days Barack Obama
Donald Trump
Andy McCabe
May 9, 2017 August 2, 2017 85 days Donald Trump
Chris Wray August 2, 2017 present 6 years, 291 days Donald Trump
Joe Biden

Line of succession[edit]

The line of succession for the director of the FBI is as follows:[17]

  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, Houston, TX
  5. Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Division
  6. Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Division
  7. Assistant Director, Washington Field Office
  8. Assistant Director, New York Field Office
  9. 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.

William S. Sessions[edit]

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.[18] Janet Reno, the 78th Attorney General of the United States, announced that Sessions had exhibited "serious deficiencies in judgment."[19]

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.[20]

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.[21]

James Comey[edit]

On May 9, 2017, President Trump dismissed Comey after the recommendation of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.[22] Rosenstein's memorandum to Sessions objected to Comey's conduct in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.[23] 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.[24][25] Comey was fired after he asked for more money for the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[26] Many members of Congress, mostly Democrats, expressed concern over the firing and argued that it would put the integrity of the investigation into jeopardy.[27]

Comey's termination was immediately controversial, even being characterized as corrupt by 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,[28][29] 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" which was later confirmed by Comey to the Senate while under oath.[30] This is disputed by reporting from multiple news agencies with multiple sources. According to the reporting, Trump had been openly talking about firing Comey for at least a week before his dismissal. Trump and Democratic leaders had long questioned Comey's judgment. Moreover, Trump was angry that Comey would not support his claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped, was 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.[31][32][33]

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.[34] 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.[35]

In the absence of a Senate-confirmed FBI director, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe automatically became the acting director, serving until the confirmation of Christopher Wray.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Directors, Then and Now". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved March 21, 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. Code § 532 - Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "FBI Director: Appointment and Tenure" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Organization, Mission & Functions Manual: Attorney General, Deputy and Associate". US Department of Justice. August 27, 2014. Archived from the original on January 31, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  5. ^ "FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  6. ^ a b The New York Times, May 9, 2017, "F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump"
  7. ^ Hogue, Henry B. (May 29, 2018). FBI Director Nominations, 1973-2017 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Kutner, Max (May 4, 2017). "Can President Donald Trump Fire FBI Director James Comey". Newsweek.
  9. ^ Chesney, Robert (May 10, 2017). "Backgrounder: The Power to Appoint & Remove the FBI Director". Lawfare Blog.
  10. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Apuzzo, Matt (May 9, 2017). "F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Senate Extends Term of F.B.I. Director". The New York Times. July 27, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  12. ^ Wilber, Del Quentin (May 11, 2017). "Top Officials Being Interviewed for Interim FBI Director After James Comey's Ouster". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 19, 2018 – via
  13. ^ "Interim FBI director likely to be named as soon as Wednesday". MSN. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  14. ^ "The FBI Director: Background on the Position". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  15. ^ "Timeline of FBI History". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on March 16, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
  16. ^ Smith, J. Y. (July 25, 1999). "Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. Dies". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved August 8, 2023.
  17. ^ "Designation of Officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation". Federal Register. February 14, 2007. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  18. ^ Johnston, David (January 19, 1993). "F.B.I. Chief Plans to Fight for Job". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Time's Up for William Sessions". The New York Times. January 22, 1993.
  20. ^ "How independent is the FBI's director? - National Constitution Center". National Constitution Center – Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  21. ^ Johnston, David (July 20, 1993) "Defiant FBI chief removed from job by the President", The New York Times.
  22. ^ Michael D. Shear; Matt Apuzzo (May 10, 2017). "Trump Fires Comey Amid Russia Inquiry – Clinton Email Investigation Cited – Democrats Seek Special Counsel". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  23. ^ Smith, David (May 9, 2017). "Donald Trump fires FBI director Comey over handling of Clinton investigation". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  24. ^ Sommer, Will (May 9, 2017). "Sessions was told to find reasons to fire Comey: reports". The Hill. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  25. ^ Pramuk, Jacob (May 9, 2017). "Justice Department was told to come up with reasons to fire Comey, reports say". CNBC. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  26. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew; Apuzzo, Matt (May 10, 2017). "Days Before He Was Fired, Comey Asked for Money for Russia Investigation". The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  27. ^ "Comey firing: Reaction from members of Congress on FBI director's dismissal". The Washington Post.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Abbruzzese, Jason (May 9, 2017). "Everyone is comparing Donald Trump to Richard Nixon". The Silicon Times. Archived from the original on July 30, 2017. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  30. ^ "FBI Director James Comey fired by President Trump". Fox59. Associated Press. May 9, 2017.
  31. ^ Haberman, Maggie; Thrush, Glenn (May 10, 2017). "'Enough Was Enough': How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  32. ^ Dawsey, Josh. "'He got tired of him'". Politico. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  33. ^ Rucker, Philip; Parker, Ashley; Barrett, Devlin; Costa, Robert. "Inside Trump's anger and impatience – and his sudden decision to fire Comey". The Washington Post.
  34. ^ The Associated Press (May 9, 2017). "The Latest: Comey Learned of Ouster as He Spoke at FBI in LA". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  35. ^ Winton, Richard; Queally, James (May 9, 2017). "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 May 10, 2017.
  36. ^ "Trump fires Comey: McCabe takes over as FBI's acting director". Fox News. May 9, 2017. Retrieved May 10, 2017.

External links[edit]