Remembering William Sessions

Tried to prevent politicization of FBI, fired by President Clinton.

William Sessions, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, died on June 12 in San Antonio, Texas, at the age of 90. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, Sessions served until 1993, when President Clinton fired him, charging poor leadership and use of his position to leverage perks. The more likely cause was Sessions’ effort to prevent the politicization of the FBI, then gearing up under the new administration.

President Clinton fired Sessions on July 19, 1993. The next day at approximately 1 p.m. Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster came out of his office with his suit jacket in hand. He told Linda Tripp, an aide to White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, that he left some M&Ms on a tray if she happened to want any. Foster didn’t say where he was going, but as he headed out the door, he told Tripp “I’ll be back.” As it turned out, he wouldn’t be back.

At approximately 6 p.m. that day, Foster’s body was found in Fort Marcy Park in Virginia, on the George Washington Parkway. Foster had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, but in one account he was found on a berm near a Civil War cannon in a straight coffin-like position, with the gun still in his hand. That seldom if ever happens in a suicide, the default explanation for Foster’s fate.

Accounts also differed on where, exactly Foster’s body had been found, which raised the possibility that it may have been moved. A point-blank gunshot wound to the head leaves an enormous amount of blood, bone and tissue but accounts of the body, and photos of the scene, do not reflect that reality.  The bullet was never found, and accounts also differed on the type of gun found in Foster’s hand.

The discharge of a .38, 9mm, or .45 pistol would made a loud noise, but the report of a firearm had not prompted a police report or search of the park. The body had been accidentally found by a visitor to the park, who had not heard a gunshot. Accounts also differed on the identity of people in the park that day, and what, exactly they were doing. These were far from casual matters. 

Death by gunshot is necessarily a violent death, and police normally treat a violent death as a homicide. As Christopher Ruddy noted in The Strange Death of Vincent Foster, if he perished by the hand of another, Foster would have been the highest-ranking White House official to be killed since President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Since Foster was a government employee, his death was a public matter.

No suicide note was found at the scene but as Ruddy notes, the Park Police, the FBI, and the Clinton White House concluded that Foster’s death was a suicide, before all the facts were in. The FBI also downplayed any evidence that contradicted official claims, and as Ruddy shows, plenty of evidence ran against the official claims. 

“The American public has not been told the complete facts of this case,” wrote William Sessions in his cover endorsement of The Strange Death of Vincent Foster. According to Sessions, the book raised “serious concerns about the handling of the Foster case,” and “it is legitimate to question the process employed by authorities to make their conclusions.”

The Clintons’ point man for the Foster case was White House security boss Craig Livingston, a former nightclub bouncer. On his watch the White House obtained FBI files on some 800 people, including hundreds of officials from Republican administrations. That was the sort of politicization that Sessions, a former judge and U.S. Attorney, was trying to prevent.

The president from 2008-2016 would deploy the upper reaches of the FBI and DOJ to aid his chosen successor, Hillary Clinton, and harm candidate and President Trump. He fired James Comey, who in 2016 refused to recommend Hillary Clinton for prosecution on a number of serious crimes, including destruction of evidence.

Hillary Clinton was Vincent Foster’s boss and former colleague, but the last person to see Foster alive was Linda Tripp, who passed away in April at the age of 70. Tripp feared retribution from the Clintons, and her book on what she saw at the White House never appeared.

In his 2018 Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr accepts the default account on Vince Foster.  On the other hand, Starr’s own investigator Miguel Rodriguez, a U.S. Attorney with forensic experience, turned up several disturbing irregularities. Interestingly enough, Starr ignores Ruddy’s book, despite the strong endorsement from William Sessions.

The first FBI director to be fired might not have been the greatest leader, but he never launched an operation like Midyear Exam or Crossfire Hurricane.  Sessions never publicly weighed in on Comey or the FBI’s Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Kevin Clinesmith, or Bill Priestap, likely author of a memo wondering if his task was to get Gen. Michael Flynn to lie or “get him fired.”

Despite the efforts of the allegedly intrepid U.S. Attorney John Durham, not a single rogue FBI agent is facing criminal charges. As President Trump says, we’ll have to see what happens.

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