Democrat introduces bill to protect FBI director
© Greg Nash

A House Democrat has introduced legislation to prevent future directors of the FBI from meeting the same fate as James Comey did under President Trump.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, filed a bill that would limit the president’s at-will ability to remove an FBI director by only allowing dismissal for specific wrongdoing.

That would include violating the Justice Department’s code of conduct or ethics policy; being convicted of a crime; misusing the FBI’s resources; making false statements during official duties; or “for other good cause.”

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“A free and independent federal law enforcement agency is critical to upholding our democracy, and all the values we cherish as Americans,” Johnson said in a statement. “Instead of the FBI director serving at the pleasure of the president, this legislation will mandate a for-cause standard to justify an FBI director’s dismissal.”

Current law limits FBI directors’ terms to 10 years as a way to help protect them from electoral politics. Yet the decadelong limit is also designed to avoid another entrenched FBI director like J. Edgar Hoover, who led the nation’s law enforcement agency for 48 years.

Comey was just under four years into his term before Trump abruptly fired him in May and offered contradicting explanations as his reason. Before Comey, the only other FBI director to be dismissed prematurely was William Sessions in 1993 by President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE, amid ethics concerns.

The Trump administration originally cited Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE’s use of a private email server as the reason for the dismissal. But the president later said in an interview with NBC News that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey amid the agency’s probe of whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election.

The Senate confirmed Comey’s successor, Christopher Wray, as the new FBI director earlier this month.

Another House Democrat previously introduced a similar bill to prevent another FBI director from being dismissed under circumstances like Comey’s.

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) filed a bill — the Fighting for Intelligent, Rational and Ethical Dismissal (FIRED) Act — in mid-May that would only allow the president to remove the FBI director for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”

Lawmakers of both parties have expressed concern that Trump would also try to get rid of Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who is now serving as special counsel in the Russia investigation after Comey’s departure.

Before leaving for the August recess, Republican Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures We are running out of time to protect Dreamers MORE (N.C.) introduced bills, with Democratic support, to prevent Trump or the Justice Department from unilaterally firing the special counsel without due cause.