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 Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg
Flag of the FBI
Chris Wray official photo (cropped).jpg
Christopher A. Wray

since August 2, 2017
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Reports to Attorney General
Director of National Intelligence
Seat J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length 10 years, renewable (only by the Senate)
FormationJuly 26, 1908
First holder Stanley Finch
Deputy Deputy Director

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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 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

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 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 nomination of 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

Bureau of Investigation chiefs and directors (1908–1935)

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.

PortraitNameTerm [14] LengthNotesPresident(s)*
1 Stanley Wellington Finch, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left.jpg Stanley Finch July 26, 1908 – April 30, 19123 years, 279 days Theodore Roosevelt ; William H. Taft
2 Bielaski.jpg A. Bruce Bielaski April 30, 1912 – February 10, 19196 years, 286 daysWilliam H. Taft; Woodrow Wilson
William E. Allen.jpg William E. Allen
February 10, 1919 – June 30, 1919140 daysActing DirectorWoodrow Wilson
3 William J. Flynn (cropped).jpg William J. Flynn July 1, 1919 – August 21, 19212 years, 51 daysWoodrow Wilson; Warren Harding
4 William J. Burns.jpg William J. Burns August 22, 1921 – May 10, 19242 years, 262 daysResignedWarren Harding; Calvin Coolidge
5 HooverJoven.jpg J. Edgar Hoover May 10, 1924 – June 30, 193511 years, 51 daysDirector of the BOICalvin Coolidge; Herbert Hoover; Franklin D. Roosevelt

Federal Bureau of Investigation directors (1935–present)

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. Starting in 1972, the United States Senate has to confirm the nomination of a permanent officeholder.

PortraitNameTerm [14] LengthNotesPresident(s)*
1 Hoover-JEdgar-LOC.jpg J. Edgar Hoover July 1, 1935 – May 2, 197236 years, 306 daysDirector 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 S. Truman; Dwight D. Eisenhower; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson; Richard Nixon
Clyde Tolson.jpg Clyde Tolson
May 2, 1972 – May 3, 19721 dayActing Director of the FBIRichard Nixon
Patrickgrey.jpeg L. Patrick Gray
May 3, 1972 – April 27, 1973359 days
William Ruckelshaus.jpg William Ruckelshaus
April 30, 1973 – July 9, 197370 days
2 Clarence M. Kelley.jpg Clarence M. Kelley July 9, 1973 – February 15, 19784 years, 221 daysRetiredRichard Nixon; Gerald Ford; Jimmy Carter
Jbadams.jpg James B. Adams
February 15, 1978 – February 23, 19788 daysAssociate Director of the FBI; Acting DirectorJimmy Carter
3 Williamwebster.jpg William H. Webster February 23, 1978 – May 25, 19879 years, 91 daysLeft the FBI to become Director of Central Intelligence; only person to have held both positionsJimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan
Otto-lg.jpg John E. Otto
May 26, 1987 – November 2, 1987160 daysDeputy Director of the FBI; Acting DirectorRonald Reagan
4 William S. Sessions.jpg William S. Sessions November 2, 1987 – July 19, 19935 years, 259 daysDismissed by President Bill ClintonRonald Reagan; George H. W. Bush; Bill Clinton
Clarke-lg.jpg Floyd I. Clarke
July 19, 1993 – September 1, 199344 daysDeputy Director of the FBI; Acting DirectorBill Clinton
5 Louisfreeh.jpeg Louis Freeh September 1, 1993 – June 25, 20017 years, 297 daysResignedBill Clinton; George W. Bush
Pickard-lg.jpg Thomas J. Pickard
June 25, 2001 – September 4, 200171 daysDeputy Director of the FBI; Acting DirectorGeorge W. Bush
6 Director Robert S. Mueller- III (cropped).jpg Robert Mueller September 4, 2001 – September 4, 201312 yearsTerm-limited; given extra 2 yearsGeorge W. Bush; Barack Obama
James Comey official portrait (cropped).jpg James Comey September 4, 2013 – May 9, 20173 years, 247 days Dismissed by President Donald Trump Barack Obama; Donald Trump
Andrew McCabe official photo (cropped).jpg Andrew McCabe
May 9, 2017 – August 2, 201785 daysDeputy Director of the FBI; Acting DirectorDonald Trump
8 Chris Wray official photo (cropped).jpg Christopher A. Wray August 2, 2017 – Present2 years, 259 days

Line of succession

The line of succession for the Director of the FBI is as follows: [16]

  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. [17]

William S. Sessions

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]

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]..." [21] 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]... [22]

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. [23]

James Comey

On May 9, 2017, President Trump dismissed Comey after the recommendation of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. [24] Rosenstein's memorandum to Sessions objected to Comey's conduct in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. [25] 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. [26] [27] Comey was fired after he asked for more money for the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. [28] Many members of Congress, mostly Democrats, expressed concern over the firing and argued that it would put the integrity of the investigation into jeopardy. [29]

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, [30] [31] 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. [32] 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 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, 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. [33] [34] [35]

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. [36] 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. [37]

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. [38]

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