WASHINGTON -- FBI Director William S. Sessions has been summoned to a meeting today with Attorney General Janet Reno for discussions expected to end in his dismissal, administration sources said yesterday.
Mr. Sessions unexpectedly left a two-day meeting in Chicago of the FBI Agents Association and returned to Washington last night as reports circulated that the administration had decided to end his stewardship of the agency.
Mr. Sessions' meeting with Ms. Reno comes one day after President Clinton met at the White House with U.S. District Judge Louis J. Freeh of New York, who administration sources said is the leading contender to replace the embattled FBI director.
Mr. Session's future at the department has been clouded since late last year, after the Justice Department's internal watchdog unit found that Mr. Sessions had abused his office in a number of ways. Then Attorney General William P. Barr, on his last day in office, severely criticized Mr. Sessions in a letter and ordered him to take remedial action, leaving the question of his tenure up to the White House.
The report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility found that Mr. Sessions had engaged in a "sham" to avoid paying taxes on his personal use of the FBI's limousine, had scheduled business trips to coincide with family visits and had refused to cooperate in a probe of whether he had a sweetheart deal on his home mortgage.
After taking office, Mr. Clinton said he would await a recommendation from Ms. Reno before acting on the Sessions matter. Ms. Reno and the White House counsel's office reviewed the Justice report, which Mr. Sessions has argued was motivated by "animus'" toward him by Mr. Barr and disgruntled FBI agents.
Ms. Reno then asked Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann, who has had long experience in dealing with the FBI, to handle the matter for her.
Ms. Reno and others, however, concluded late last spring that Mr. Sessions should be replaced, even though he is just halfway through his 10-year term as director. The FBI director serves at the pleasure of the president.
Mr. Sessions has been holding out for a deal that would allow him to remain in office until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate.