Why President Clinton fired then-FBI Director William Sessions in July 1993

Williams Sessions was the first FBI director to be fired.

ByABC News
May 10, 2017, 11:25 AM

— -- James Comey's abrupt firing as FBI director took Washington -- and the nation -- by surprise Tuesday, but he is not the first bureau chief to be dismissed by a president.

William Sessions -- no relation to current Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- served as director of the FBI from Nov. 2, 1987, until July 19, 1993, when he was fired by then President Bill Clinton.

Sessions, who was affiliated with the Republican Party, was nominated for FBI director by then President Ronald Reagan.

Political experts say Sessions remained partisan throughout his tenure.

Democrats vociferously supported Sessions when he made an effort to include more minorities and women in the FBI.

Sessions’ lasting influence on the FBI extended beyond his diversification efforts. He also helped support a nationwide DNA program as well as national fingerprint process.

However, Sessions’ ethics came into question just before then-President-elect Bill Clinton was inaugurated. Sessions was accused of improperly using an FBI plane to visit his family as well as reportedly installing a security fence around his home on the government’s dime. A Justice Department report found that Sessions had avoided paying taxes on the use of his FBI limousine for his daily commute.

"I have concluded that the director has exhibited a serious deficiency in judgment involving matters contained in the report and that he does not command the respect and confidence needed to lead the bureau and the law enforcement community in addressing the many issues facing law enforcement today," then-Attorney General Janet Reno wrote in a letter to then-President Clinton.

Sessions maintained he had not done anything wrong and refused to leave amid calls for his resignation.

Bill Clinton ultimately fired Sessions on July 19, 1993.

"We cannot have a leadership vacuum at an agency as important to the United States as the FBI," Clinton said at a White House press conference after the dismissal. "It is time that this difficult chapter in the agency's history is brought to a close."

FBI directors typically serve a 10-year term, and at the time of his dismissal, Sessions was a little over halfway through his term.