Who Wants to Hire a Former FBI Director?

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By Jon Steingart

It’s usually bad for your career when the boss sends you a letter that says, “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” That’s what President Donald Trump did May 9 to now-former FBI Director James Comey.

What comes next for Comey is hard to predict. There aren’t a lot of examples of where FBI directors go after getting fired. The bureau has had only 11 directors in its century of existence.

William Sessions was the only other FBI director to have been canned. President Bill Clinton dismissed him in 1993 after he refused to step aside.

“It’s been very fine and successful and enjoyable,” Sessions told Bloomberg BNA May 10 about his career after leaving the FBI. Now 86 years old, he declined to speak in depth but said he retired from his law firm six years ago. Sessions joined Holland & Knight LLP as an attorney in 2000. The firm declined to comment May 10.

Termination Needs Explanation

Comey can’t rely solely on his resume and stature to overcome the hit caused by being fired, according to former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “It certainly presents a situation where you have to have an explanation,” he told Bloomberg BNA May 10.

Comey served as deputy attorney general under Gonzales during the George W. Bush administration.

The details of Comey’s termination are “going to be pretty well aired out publicly,” Gonzales said. Nevertheless, someone who’s been fired will have to be prepared to discuss it, he said.

Some of the common questions are whether someone has been terminated or had a grievance filed against him with the bar, Gonzales said.

“Every search firm is going to have a standard questionnaire,” he said.

Career Setback Seen As Unlikely

Comey’s firing is unlikely to result in a major career setback, said Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader in legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Washington, D.C., office. He connects law firms and former government officials.

“It’s very common for top government people pretty much everywhere to move over into private practice or go in-house,” Lowe told Bloomberg BNA May 10. “I think for obvious reasons he became very politicized, not that he created it.”

Trump’s termination letter cited concerns with how Comey handled an investigation into a private email server Hillary Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

“With him specifically, I think he has had such a distinguished career and I think there will still be a very large segment of the population that will be very happy to have him,” Lowe said.

Companies like to hire former government officials because they’re seen as subject matter experts who know key decision makers, he said. “It’s huge business in Washington, D.C.,” Lowe said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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