President Trump shared some alternative history during his interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, confidently saying that "out of courtesy," the FBI director began reporting to the Department of Justice during Richard Nixon's tenure as president, but "the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States." This is not true.
The FBI director is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but reports to the attorney general. As the FBI spells it out on its website: "Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI's intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence." The president does have the power to fire the FBI director, as Trump showed earlier this year when he canned former FBI Director James Comey, without even having to give a reason.
Trump said he believes that it's just a courtesy for the FBI to report to the Justice Department because "there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress," he told the Times. "There was nothing — anything. But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we're going to have a great new FBI director."
He started talking about his nominee, Chris Wray, who is "highly thought of by everybody," when the conversation turned to Comey, but the interview was soon interrupted by Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and 6-year-old granddaughter, Arabella Kushner. The proud grandfather told the Times that young Kushner "speaks fluent Chinese" and spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and requested she say, "I love you, Grandpa." After Kushner responded, "Wo ai ni, Grandpa," Trump asked, "She's unbelievable, huh? Good, smart genes."