No matter what some in the media might tell you, it is not impossible to fire government officials if there is a valid basis for doing so. When it comes to the FBI, that task is far easier because—with very limited exceptions that likely do not apply to Strzok—FBI officials are effectively “at-will” employees. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which governs the disciplinary due process system for the entire U.S. government, specifically excludes the bureau—as well as several other agencies within the intelligence community—from its statutory scope. In effect, FBI officials receive whatever internal due process the agency decides to provide to them out of a matter of discretion.
What was so unusual in the context of Strzok’s firing, however, was the direct intervention of Deputy Director David Bowdich into the process. Just like in any other FBI disciplinary proceeding, Strzok was initially afforded the right to appeal the proposed termination of his employment to Candace M. Will, the head of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility. I have appeared before Will several times on behalf of FBI clients and I can state from personal experience that she is well-credentialed and compassionate, but ultimately very strict. She is a firm believer in the notion that the FBI has to hold itself to the highest ethical and moral standards and that is often reflected in her determinations. In 11 years of practice, I cannot think of a single time I have ever managed to persuade Will to reverse a proposed termination of an FBI official’s employment.