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Can FBI Director James Comey Be Fired? 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

James Comey fired , James Comey Hillary Clinton email, FBI Director James Comey, Hillary Clinton email, Hillary Clinton private server, Comey influence election

FBI Director James Comey. (Getty)

James Comey, the 55-year-old director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, came under heavy criticism on Friday after he sent a vaguely worded letter to congressional Republicans that appeared to suggest that the FBI would “reopen” its investigation into the use of a private email server by former secretary of state — now Democratic presidential candidate — Hillary Clinton.

Comey sent the letter with just 11 days remaining before the November 8 election.

With just two days to go before the national vote, Comey sent another letter to congress, saying that the FBI’s review of newly discovered emails on a computer owned by disgraced former congressional rep Anthony Weiner — estranged husband of Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin — found nothing that warranted changes to the Bureau’s July decision against hitting Clinton with any charges.

In fact, according to one report, almost all of the new emails were simply duplicates of emails included in the FBI’s original inquiry.

The second Comey letter, in effect an admission that he had thrown the presidential election into chaos for no reason, led to a new groundswell of calls for his firing.

But can President Barack Obama, who appointed Comey to the job in 2013, or a hypothetical future President Hillary Clinton step in and fire Comey over what some are calling his attempt to interfere in the presidential election?

Here’s what you need to know.


1. Under the Law, Presidents May Fire FBI Directors

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Legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who held the post for 48 years. (Getty)

Under a United States statute that first went into effect in 1968, FBI directors are nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate — a process similar to the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court justices or presidential cabinet officials.

Unlike the justices, who are appointed for life and cannot be fired — but can be impeached by congress (which has happened only one time in American history) — or cabinet officials who have no set terms, the FBI director is appointed to a single term of 10 years.

The statute establishing the 10-year term limit was passed in 1976, four years after the death of legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who held on to the job for 48 years.

But according to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, “there are no statutory conditions on the President’s authority to remove the FBI Director.” In other words, the President can indeed fire the FBI director. An FBI director can also be removed by congress, through the impeachment process.


2. Only One FBI Director Has Ever Been Fired

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Former FBI Director William Sessions. (Getty)

Not every FBI director since Hoover has served out his (they have all been men) 10-year term. Hoover’s successor Clarence Kelley retired in 1978, at the age of 67. Louis Freeh, who had been appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, resigned in 2001 in the aftermath of the Robert Hanssen spy scandal in which a former FBI agent, Hanssen, was unmasked as a Russian agent.

James Comey fired , James Comey Hillary Clinton email, FBI Director James Comey, Hillary Clinton email, Hillary Clinton private server, Comey influence election

President Bill Clinton (l) and Attorney General Janet Reno announce the firing of FBI Director William Sessions in 1993. (Getty)


But only one of those directors was ever fired by a president — William S. Sessions who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, but who was beset by allegations of ethics violations, such as disguising private vacations as law enforcement business, and using a chauffeured government limousine for personal transportation.

Because firing an FBI director is certain to bring accusations of playing politics with law enforcement against any president who chooses to do so, Clinton repeatedly asked Sessions to resign his post. But Sessions refused to step down.

So in July of 1993, saying that he had been advised by then-attorney general Janet Reno that Sessions “can no longer effectively lead the bureau and law enforcement community,” Clinton fired the FBI director — eventually appointing Freeh in his place.


3. Comey Defied Justice Department Rules — And Possibly Broke the Law

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President Barack Obama (r) announced the nomination of James Comey (r) to be FBI director in 2013. (Getty)

On Sunday, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid sent his own letter — to Comey. In the letter, Reid told the FBI director, “my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act. Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.”

The Hatch Act is a 1939 federal statute that prohibits federal employees from directly supporting political candidates, or using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”

While the penalties for violating the act are largely administrative, if Comey was determined to be in violation of the 77-year-old law, that could serve as grounds for his firing or demotion. But as of Monday, October 31, there had been no official inquiry as to whether Comey’s letter broke the law.

What appears more clear is that in sending the letter, Comey went rogue, breaking from well-established Justice Department policies.

Even Republicans, such as Fox News legal commentator Jean Pirro and conservative columnist George Will have condemned Comey’s decision to send the letter — especially after it became clear by Sunday that neither Comey nor any FBI investigators had seen the emails he referenced in his letter, had any knowledge of what they contained — or even if any of the emails were sent by or to Hillary Clinton.

According to a former Justice Department official, Matthew Miller writing Saturday in The Washington Post, while Comey may or may not have violated a law, he broke with longstanding practice, tradition and Justice Department guidelines when he wrote Friday’s letter, making a public comment on an ongoing investigation.

“There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,” George J. Terwilliger III, who was deputy attorney general in the George Bush administration told The New York Times on Saturday. “Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences.”

“There’s a difference between being independent and flying solo,” the former Bush administration official added.

Comey also directly defied the wishes of Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her deputy, Sally Yates, who wanted the FBI director to stick to long-established tradition and keep his comments about matters that could have a bearing on the presidential election to himself, CNN reported.

“Justice officials didn’t sign off on Comey’s decision and he didn’t seek their approval,” the CNN report noted.

“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership. It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill,” one current Justice Department official told The Washington Post, also in a Saturday story. “He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”

“Justice traditionally bends over backward to avoid taking any action that might be seen by the public as influencing an election, often declining to even take private steps that might become public in the 60 days leading up to an election,” Miller wrote. “This entire episode has exposed a troubling character flaw that calls into question Comey’s very fitness to lead the FBI…. He seems to have become intoxicated by the plaudits that have come his way. That praise has emboldened him to ignore the rules that apply to others, both because he believes in his own reputation and because he wants to thwart critics such as Republicans in Congress who might question it.”

Miller added that in previous cases involving public officials up for election, the Justice Department has held off on issuing subpoenas until the election was complete, as well as refraining from public comment.



4. Comey Himself Appeared to Question His Own Actions

In an internal memo to FBI employees, that leaked to the press on Friday, Comey appeared unsure of the justification for sending the letter to congress — admitting that by sending the letter he would create “a significant risk of being misunderstood,” and that the FBI normally does not comment about ongoing investigations.

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed,” Comey wrote in the leaked memo. “I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”


5. The Clinton Campaign Was Furious at Comey Over the Vague Letter

Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta on Friday quickly released a statement blasting Comey, in which he called on the FBI to release full details of whatever new information they claim to have discovered, pointing out that “the Director himself notes that they [i.e. emails mentioned in Comey’s letter] may not be significant.”

Clinton herself also ripped Comey for the vague letter, delivered to the Republican chairs of eight different congressional committees.

“We are 11 days out from perhaps the most important national election of our lifetimes,” Clinton told reporters in Iowa later in Friday. “Voting is already underway in our country, so the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately. We don’t know the facts, which is why we are calling on the FBI to release all the information that it has,” she said. “Even Director Comey noted that this new information may not be significant, so let’s get it out.”

At a campaign appearance Saturday in Florida, Clinton was even more pointed in her criticism of Comey.

“It is pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election,” she said at the rally. “In fact, it’s not just strange. It is unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.”

With Clinton clearly angry at Comey, if she wins the election and becomes president, will she fire him? If she tries — or requests his resignation — she will certainly face a considerable political backlash. But if she wants to hand Comey his pink slip, it appears that as president, she would be within her legal rights to do so.

New Hillary Clinton Email Announcement: Why Did FBI Do It 11 Days Before Election?

Why did FBI Director James Comey make his announcement about the Hillary Clinton email investigation 11 days before the election? There's a simple reason.

Click here to read more

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222 comments

  1. Thank god Trump and his little-minded, uneducated, red-necked, Nazi supporters have succeeded in digging a hole that there is no hope of escaping. Even Republican leaders can’t put enough distance between themselves and Trump. Trump and his dwindling number of supporters continue to rally around an email investigation that has been closed (and not reopened) yet say nothing about Trump’s degenerate and flouted serial sexual assault of women, tax scams (legal or no), racial hate and the simple fact that he’s just a loud-mouthed idiot that can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction. Trump acts like a 6 year old throwing a tantrum. It still escapes my comprehension how anyone with any common sense or even the smallest amount of intelligence would support such a person.

    • “It still escapes my comprehension how anyone with any common sense or even the smallest amount of intelligence would support such a person.” I wonder the same thing about people that support a traitor and murderer (Benghazi). Checkmate. You’re done.

      • Guess you did not read the 124 page report put out after the 20+ million taxpayer dollars spent on the Rupugnican-led investigation, a proverbial “witchhunt”, in which their conclusion was that there was nothing that could have been done under the circumstances that would have changed the outcome in any way, and BTW, completely exonerating Hillary Clinton and President Obama of any wrongdoing whatsoever. In fact they had to admit that it was their lack of proper funding for Embassy Security that was at fault. Everything “anonymous” said is 100% accurate.

        • You people always seem to forget the millions of dollars blown by the Obamas on their foreign, exotic vacations paid for at taxpayer expense. Clinton was NOT exonerated. Comey was TOLD not to pursue the matter by the thoroughly corrupt Obama admin. After walking the halls of the FBI HQ for a few weeks under the gaze of his fellow agents he realized his mistake and has tried to rectify it. Clinton is 110% guilty of destroying public records, exposing classified material to foreign hackers and turning the State Dept. into a pay-for-play operation. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.

      • It is hard to understand how someone could support a crooked person, that stiff hard working people out of their money. Whether it may be Trump school or the people who has done work for Trump and he refused to pay them. He is also a groper, the women that he assaulted should have smack him in his face PERVERT!!

        • There is no hard evidence that Trump has ever sexually assaulted any woman. You are operating on what a corrupt media is pushing at the behest of the desperate Clinton campaign that has fabricated salacious, baseless allegations which have been proven false. The Clintons were also involved in a questionable school and you conveniently overlook the millions they pilfered from the Haitians following the aftermath of a destructive hurricane. Talk about taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable. They’re wicked and heartless and will wind up in prison where they belong.

      • The exact same thing runs through my mind as well as many others when it comes to trying to comprehend how someone can support and vote for Trump.

      • It escapes your comprehension because of cognitive dissonance. You have been presented with the facts, and since the facts don’t support what you want to be the truth, your mind cannot comprehend it. It’s that way with many things that conservatives cannot accept. The planet that we live on is spheroid, not flat, and it circles the sun. It is billions of years old, not 6000 years old or even 20,000 years old. Just like our house pets, the dog and cat are in family branches named feline and canine families, humans are in a family branch named the Hominidae family. Climate change is real and what is happening to our climate now is a direct result of the actions of humans. See, there are many facts that you cannot comprehend, because you prefer your own invented version of the “truth” than what the facts support. If we continue to evolve, I would hope that cognitive dissonance (stoopidity) will become painful, even lethal, and your type will no longer contribute to our collective gene pool.

        • Hope you believe in what you say about facts not fitting what you want to believe because you are definitely suffering from that condition facts fbi director comey states that classified information was sent to and from clintons private server that is a fact not a delusion she bold faced lied and said that was not case fact there has been not hard evidence that any of these woman who claim they were assaulted by trump who conveniently decide to come out after getting the republican nomination not before were ever assaulted that Is another nasty trick by liberals to try and tip the scales in their favor and trump as well has never said any racist that again is another nasty trick that liberals try pull to get there way I’m not a hundred percent supporter of trump but I am 100 percent against someone who can bold face lie to the american people I.e. her sending of classified emails are you so ignorant to question how she could hold that office and not know that wasn’t an ok thing to do or that those little c’s next to each line didn’t mean classified that would be troubling because it would mean that you didn’t realize that she was obviously not qualified for office. And then tell the american public benghazi was a protest and then turning around and telling both her family and three different world leaders that wasn’t the case those are facts not delusions and people like you voting scares the crap out of me talk about uneducated why don’t you do everyone a fave and watch some congressional hearings before you vote and take the time to educate yourself instead of listening to the media to get your information cause left and right will bend to there favor every time and pray to god that you get a sense of individuality about yourself and do some research and learn to think for yourself that is a problem on both sides but as for me I can’t trust the most important office in our country to a person who has proven herself be a liar and a failure no trump is not necessarily the greatest choice for president but out of all three and yes I have looked at gary Johnson. To me trump is lesser evil of all three

        • This must have been written by a second rate community college freshman! Climate change is a myth you moron and enjoy the next 16 years of a republican let administration and congress. Oh by the kiss Roe vs Wade good bye you child murdering idiot and I ferverently pray that the birds saved by the dismantling of the rediculous wind generators crap on your little pin head.

      • Benghazi: The Embassy was notified weeks in advance to evacuate as there had been word that something could happen. By the simple evidence there were only 4 killed the embassy had been evacuated. At the very beginning of the reporting of this, it was mentioned and accurately reported that the Ambassador chose to ignore the order from the SOS as he felt he was to important to leave. With that alone in mind, he chose to create not only his own death, but the death of the other three people. Up next? The SOS is no where in the military chain of command. So if you really want to get sticky about it, she had no authorization at all to order troops to head to Benghazi. It is well known that it would have taken at least 2 hours for them to get there. For her to have followed all protocol, she would have had to contacted the Chiefs of Staff in order to have had troops sent. That would have added an additional 30 minutes at a minimum. Kind of like Bush requiring SpecOps to call back for Authorization to kill Bin Lauden if they spotted him in the first months after 9/11. They had him located 3 different times in the first 6 months, could have taken him out, but by the time they got hold of Bush, he decided “no”, and then got back to them, it wouldn’t have mattered because the lost him. How many lives did we lose there? At any rate: if she would have just sent troops and their chopper would have been taken down upon arrival, we would have been talking how many more people died in addition to the fact that she didn’t have the authority to do so. In other words, a no win situation. I think this should be the last one: For decades and decades, the USMC handles all security for embassies around the globe. That year or the year prior, the sub-committee handling funding for those things slashed the money allocated for them. You guessed it, a GOP controlled sub-committee. The Marines were pulled off that duty from all embassies and private contractors were put in place. The difference were the amount of personnel. The USMC would have had a significant more number of personnel on hand.

        So tell me; Benghazi? Oh, let’s not forget that 9 separate GOP led investigations running the American public over $20 million were conducted and not a one of them could find her guilty of a damn thing. The last one several people stepped forward and said it was a witch hunt. At that point the GOP said no more. How many more investigations were they going to hold? Until they just found something? I think 9 without finding anything should have been enough.

        In the U.S. we say Innocent until proven Guilty. So why is it that in this case it is Innocent, but will never be? Your own party has always found her innocent, not guilty and everything else along those lines. Yet, the only two things people can say are e-mails and Benghazi. Yet you will never hear the GOP talk about what their platform is or what they really plan on doing to help the nation.

        So drop Benghazi, drop the e-mails. Tell us what the GOP will do that will actually help us.

      • Who’s the traitor? The one getting support from Putin? And you’re clearly uneducated on Benghazi: Wishing doesn’t make it so: Multiple Republican investigations witch hunts have found nothing. You were done before the game began.

      • Sometimes bad things just happen to people. Most people that have held onto the things that people have dogged Clinton with for years want to complain about those claims but actually know little to no true facts about any of it. Please people take time to read about your candidates.

    • You really are ill-informed and border on illiterate, right? It escapes my comprehension how anyone that is even sane cannot understand the corruption that IS the Clintons, and has been since they first resided in Arkansas. It is not fable, it is fact! Get your head out and smell the Mexican cartel coffee you seem to be gulping. Follow the money, it’s called “pay to play!” You are the epitome of the idiocy that has been the American electorate – never doing your research, but rather name-calling and assuming false postulates. Probably don’t get out in the sun much, either, do you?

    • Wishful thinking. Trump is going to win by a landslide. Nothing Trump has said or done even begins to compare with the corrupt and questionable activities of Clinton.

    • DAM YOUR FU(KING DUMB, “supporters continue to rally around an email investigation that has been closed (and not reopened)” THE LETTER TO CONGRESS FROM THE FBI SAID THAT THE INVESTIGATION WAS REOPENED, FYI it was NEVER CLOSED In July He adnounced that They were not Seeking Charges, After He Read Intent INTO Title 18 Section 2071, WHERE NONE IS REQUIRED, The Simple Fact that SHE HAD CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS ON HER SERVER MAKES HER GUILTY Why the LOONY LEFT CAN NOT UNDERSTAND THAT AND YET STILL SUPPORTS HER IS LOST ON ME.

      • I was just thinking the same thing about all these Hillary people. They have to be shills. Nobody in their right mind would pick a lying traitorous murderer that is under investigation by the FBI for TREASON over a man who said some inappropriate things and legally files his taxes in full accordance with the law.

    • Clinton is by far worse then Trump ever thought about. Trump supporter are not racist, uneducated or any of the other insulting names Clinton supporters use. I have a college education, work full time, pay my own bills. I have never and would never condone anything Hitler did. Before you call names to people you no nothing about you should actually know the people you insult. Luckily I do not have or want to know somebody as rude and
      lacking in intelligence as you. If I said Clinton supporters are racist, violent, welfare collecting losers would that be a truth or just rude remarks made on a brain not fully developed. I do not believe this it was only to make a point. However, your the one seriously lacking in intelligence.

  2. Best bet, if you got her rock solid, do the perp walk, for all America to see. What ever you do, your damaged goods and have to leave office. At leased, if she’ arrested, and found guilty, you leave with SOME respect.

  3. Yes, POTUS can fire the Director, and the Senate does not have to confirm ANY of the federal judges, from the Supreme Court, on down, that POTUS puts forward, not to mention, to cut off funding for POTUS. No, POTUS will not fire the Director.

  4. there is no good reason why the FBI director should keep his job. He is not qualified to head the FBI he has but a black mark on the organization, and he should be removed as soon as
    as soon as possible

    • I agree. He seems incompetent when questioned by Gowdy and the others and has no good answers for them. He tries to dance around the facts and then attempts to obfuscate the truth with answers that make him appear borderline insane. It is embarrassing. I wouldn’t hire him to mow my lawn.

  5. So this is a left leaning sight I take it. Letter was not sent to just republicans it was sent to both parties. While Comey may have disregarded department guidelines he did not break any laws. The Hatch Act does not even apply to Comey. And even if he went against the Hatch Act there are no legal ramifications for doing so because it’s not a law. His conflict in making Congress aware of what he was doing was a result of his recent trip to Congress to further explain his actions of July. He was torn between notifying Congress of new information as he told them he would when infront of them versus not commenting at all. He chose letting them know. While Clinton was unhappy with a “vague” letter they seemed pleased as punch after Comey said they would not seek prosecution. That in itself is weird since they can’t prosecute anyone – only the DOJ can. Meanwhile he laid out in that same statement in July that she acted extremly recklessly, and had she been working at the FBI would have lost her job. In light of what others have done – Martha Stewart comes to mind – there does seem to be a difference of justice for different people. Hillary very clearly is among those different people.

    • No, he sent it to the committee chair’s they are all republican, so yes he did send to the republicans. The Hatch Act does apply to Comey and anybody that works for the Federal Government as an Employee of the Government. If he did not even know what was in the emails, then what was the reason? He did not even have a warrant until 2 days later, how did he know on Friday what was in the emails? He didn’t and that is the point. And when has the FBI EVERY commented on an open investigation ????

  6. I blame President Oboma , for giving this Judas the position of head of FBI . The president should ask for Comey resignation

  7. Then do something with him. We’re already the laughing stock of the rest of the world. Somebody needs to be tough. Hillary would fire his ass.

  8. That is all well and good because he wasn’t supposed to do it during an election period. The fact he did is a Hatch Act violation and he already has a complaint filed against him. Chaffetz tweeted about it and misled people and the news outlets started saying Comey had reopened the email server case when he hadn’t. The fact that leaks are coming out of that office I can see more than one firing should be coming. This was not the time for Comey to do any of this. That is why there are laws like the Hatch Act on the books and a government office that enforces it.

  9. Comey sent the letter to Republican chairmen and all respective Ranking members. For you dummies, that means the Democrats. You all thought Comey was the greatest thing this summer but Comey promised Congress if new information came up concerning the investigation he would tell them. There must be something in these Huma/Weiner emails or Comey wouldn’t risk his reputation or job. Plus the Wikileaks show pay for play by the Clintons was ongoing. She’s a crook, deal with it.

  10. Today, Sunday the 6th Comey released a letter that the agency hasn’t changed its opinion that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges after a review of new emails. He needs to be fired and face charges along with who ever leaked info to Rudy Giuliani [self admission] prior to Comey’s press conference.

  11. Clinton will have Comey by the short hairs come Inauguration Day, 2017. I hope she fires this stupid, partisan, meddling SOB.

  12. Comey had already testified before congress. He had no way of knowing (and still does not) if there were any emails found on Weiner’s laptop that might jeopardize his testimony. It may not have been prudent to send the letter, but if they had really found anything that would have been classified as “Pertinent to HRC’s problems with the personal server” it would have warranted a reopening of a “cold case” situation. So how can we blame him after seeing the possible aftermaths of what happens to people who go against the Clintons.

  13. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”! Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton concerning FBI Director Comey’s removal from office.

  14. now that Trump is President and AG Loretta Lynch can kiss her job goodbye . the FBI can get to the real truth without being hindered. And all those favors Clinton owes to people are not going to happen..

  15. Comey is in the swamp with the rest of his buddies.In 70 days,D.J.Trump can drain the swamp. Hang tough for now,DJ. Trump.when it’s time,you can pull the plug,and drain the swamp. Can anyone help me send this text to trump,I’m new to these smart phones.It took me 30min.s to write this text. Please help me.

  16. Why hasn’t Comey been fired by President Obama for violating the hatch act thereby influencing the outcome of the election.