President Trump has fired the director of the FBI, James B. Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, according to the White House statement on Tuesday. Comey was leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections with possible ties to the Trump campaign and top aides.
The White House pointed to Comey’s handling of the probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server while secretary of state as the reason for his dismissal. Democrats were quick to contend that the decision by President Trump was part of an effort to impede the Justice Department’s Russia investigation and said the probe could now only be managed by a special prosecutor going forward.
Mr. Comey’s dismissal is a shocking development, specifically when then-candidate Trump benefited from the FBI investigation of the Democratic nominee Clinton during the 2016 campaign.
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the FBI on May 3. Comey was terminated from his position on Tuesday according to a statement from the White House press secretary.
The abrupt firing also raises questions over whether Trump is trying to influence the Russia investigation. According to Trump, he was following recommendations from the Justice Department, which criticized how Mr. Comey concluded the investigation into Mrs. Clinton.
Director Comey broke with longstanding tradition and policies by publicly discussing the Clinton case last July and chastising her “careless” handling of classified information. In the campaign’s final days, Comey announced that the FBI was reopening the investigation, a move that earned him widespread criticism.
In a letter to Comey on Tuesday, Trump states the following,
“I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump continued. “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.”
The dismissal comes as the FBI is investigating any Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any Russian ties to Trump associates. Comey had most recently come under fire for misstating how many sensitive emails Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, forward to her husband, Anthony Weiner.
Why Fire Comey Now?
The White House released several documents after Comey’s firing, including the letter that Trump sent informing Comey of his termination, the memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending Comey’s dismissal to the President, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo to Sessions on Comey.
“The Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and who sets the right example for our law enforcement officials and others in the Department,” Sessions wrote to the President. “Therefore, I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey, Jr., and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the FBI.”
It was the strongly worded memo written by Rosenstein to Sessions that outlined Comey’s missteps and laid out the argument for his removal.
“The current FBI Director is an articulate and persuasive speaker about leadership and the immutable principles of the Department of Justice,” Rosenstein wrote. “He deserves our appreciation for his public service. As you and I have discussed, however, I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unite people of diverse perspectives.”
Rosenstein further stated his case for Comey’s removal, citing a succession of bad decisions on Comey’s part in handling the Clinton email case so publicly.
“The director was wrong to usurp the attorney general’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution,” Rosenstein continued. “It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement. At most, the director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”
Rosenstein also included opinions from multiple former attorneys general and deputy attorneys general baffled at Comey for discussing the Clinton email case without any indictments.
“The way the director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong,” Rosenstein wrote. “As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the search for a new FBI director will begin immediately.
“The FBI is one of our nations most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” Spicer said in a statement.
Updates on the article as reports develops…