FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms intended to carry across presidential administrations, even when a new party takes over the White House. Comey, who was appointed by President Obama, is in the fourth year of his term and has spoken publicly about his enthusiasm for remaining in the job.
President Trump criticized the FBI during his campaign for its decision not to recommend charges against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server. He called the bureau's decision a “horrible mistake.”
In a CBS “60 Minutes” interview after the election, Trump said he hadn't decided whether to keep Comey on, though he did appear to greet the FBI chief warmly last weekend at a ceremony for law enforcement officials.
Although an FBI director can be fired by the president, only one since 1976 has been removed prematurely — Reagan appointee William Sessions by President Clinton in 1993.
Comey was fiercely criticized by Democrats for a letter he sent Congress 11 days before the election that said the FBI had discovered additional emails in the Clinton investigation that it wanted to review. Then, just before election day, he said the emails had done nothing to change the FBI's conclusion.
The episode infuriated Clinton supporters who said that the discovery shouldn't have been made public so close to the election, and that it had damaged her chances. Comey has since been criticized for refusing to discuss with Congress any investigation the FBI might be conducting into possible connections between Trump aides and Russian authorities, leading to charges of a double standard.
The FBI also has been investigating Russian interference in the election, which the bureau and other intelligence agencies say was aimed at helping Trump win the presidency.
The New York Times first reported that Comey would stay on. His name was included on a Justice Department document listing “career, term and similarly designated component heads” unaffected by the presidential transition. The Associated Press also confirmed that the Trump administration planned to keep Comey as FBI director.
Comey would continue to run the agency amid an ongoing Justice Department inspector general investigation, announced this month before Trump took office, into the FBI's handling of the Clinton email inquiry. It will look at whether Comey broke with Justice Department protocol in sending the letters to Congress and whether agents improperly disclosed nonpublic information. Comey has said he welcomes the review.
5:30 p.m.: The story was updated with additional reporting and background on Comey.
The story was originally published at 8:15 a.m.