Sessions reportedly due to lose job heading FBI Ethics questions judged too serious

February 06, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Clinton administration officials have concluded that the ethics issues raised by FBI Director William S. Sessions' conduct are so serious that he must leave office, but they hope he will "see reality" and step down voluntarily, a senior administration official said yesterday.

At the same time, the source said that the White House would not publicly depart from its announced plan of taking no action until Bernard Nussbaum, President Clinton's counsel, has reviewed both a Department of Justice report finding that Mr. Sessions had abused his office and the challenges to that report lodged by Mr. Sessions' two lawyers.

"There's no way Bill Clinton is going to keep him, but he doesn't want to be pushing Sessions out the door," said the senior official, who declined to be identified by name or agency.

Mr. Sessions, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, is now in the sixth year of a 10-year term at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but Mr. Clinton's spokesmen have noted that he can be removed by the president at any time.

Despite the hope that he will leave voluntarily, Mr. Sessions showed no signs yesterday of giving up his fight to keep his job as he presided over an extraordinarily heated meeting with several of the bureau's senior officials.

After the meeting, Mr. Sessions reversed an order by Associate Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy, who had suspended disciplinary action against FBI agents who had violated bureau policy on the use of government vehicles -- a policy that the Department of Justice probe concluded Mr. Sessions had violated on "numerous" occasions.

Mr. Kennedy had suspended the disciplinary action to avoid the appearance of a double standard, with agents and other FBI employees being punished for infractions similar to those the director had allegedly committed, an FBI source said.

Mr. Kennedy acted about two weeks ago without public notice, the source said. Several agents who received 30-day suspensions for personal use of FBI vehicles have protested the discipline, and "field personnel" have expressed concerns about the potential for a double standard, according to the source.

Rules at the FBI strictly prohibit personal use of official vehicles, including transporting anyone who is not involved in government business.

Mr. Sessions, noting that the suspensions had occurred without his knowledge, said, "I have now considered the matter and instructed that all disciplinary allegations within the FBI be thoroughly and promptly investigated and adjudicated without delay and without regard to any circumstance involving me."

The meeting of senior officials called by Mr. Sessions included Mr. Kennedy, Deputy Director Floyd I. Clarke and David G. Binney, assistant director for inspections.

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