US President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, May 9 on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to the White House.
I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI. It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions.
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.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a letter to President Trump
The news first broke as White House spokesperson Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump was removing Comey immediately: “The president has accepted the recommendation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Comey was in Los Angeles, where he was scheduled to speak at an FBI recruiting event. The New York Times reported that Comey was speaking to FBI employees when TV chyrons in the background broke the news that he had been fired.
According to the Times report, Comey laughed, believing at first that the news was a “fairly funny prank.”
The memorandum to Sessions from deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein accuses Comey of mishandling the FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server for announcing his conclusions that the probe should be closed without criminal charges.
In the three-page memo, Rosenstein recommended to Sessions that Comey be removed so the FBI could begin to “regain public and congressional trust” under a new director who “understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”
Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation prompted criticism from Democrats as well as Republicans, with the former decrying his decision to announce 11 days before the presidential election that the FBI had uncovered new emails sent from Clinton’s private server.
Those emails, discovered on the computer of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband Anthony Weiner, turned out not to be a new break in the case, but many Democrats as well as Clinton herself have blamed Comey for costing her the election.
Republicans in Congress have been more likely to agree with Rosenstein’s assessment that Comey was too quick to dismiss the prospect of charging Clinton in the original case.
For his part, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3 that the possibility he impacted the election made him “mildly nauseous,” but said he stood by the decision to reopen the Clinton investigation.
However, just hours before he was fired the FBI sent a letter to the committee hours correcting Comey’s May 3 testimony about Abedin.
Comey told senators that Abedin made a “regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails to her husband. He said some of the emails contained classified information.
ProPublica reported on May 9 that some of Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was inaccurate. Abedin in fact forwarded only a few emails for Weiner to print, and officials told ProPublica that most of the emails likely got onto his computer from backups of Abedin’s BlackBerry device.
Furthermore, ProPublica said only 12 emails pulled from Weiner’s laptop were classified, and none bore the designation when they were sent.
Absent from the Justice Department recommendations was any mention of Comey’s other big investigation, the one looking at possible links between Trump, his associates and the Russian government.
The Washington Post reported that Keith Schiller, director of Oval Office Operations – and Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard – delivered the president’s letter to FBI headquarters in Washington announcing Comey’s sacking.
Trump’s letter to Comey thanked him for “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation,” a likely reference to the Russia inquiry.
In March, Comey confirmed the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials to influence the 2016 election.
The US intelligence community said it has high confidence the Russian government sought to influence the election in favor of Trump, allegations the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
Lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday evening renewed their calls for an independent investigator to be appointed in the Russia probe, with many some that Sessions had recused himself from the investigation over communications he had with Russian officials while advising the Trump campaign.
There are simply too many questions raised by tonight’s actions. The American people deserve answers—now—from an independent investigator pic.twitter.com/CmO034FTui
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) May 10, 2017
Late Tuesday, CNN reported that federal prosecutors have issued the first grand jury subpoenas in connection with the Russia investigation.
According to CNN, citing unnamed sources, the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia subpoenaed several people who worked with former national security advisor Michael Flynn after he was fired as Defense Intelligence Agency director in 2014.
The report said investigators have been looking into whether Flynn improperly disclosed payments from foreign clients with ties to Turkey and Russia.
Document released by the House Oversight Committee support assertions from Flynn’s lawyer that he did brief the DIA about a controversial trip to Moscow, and Flynn has publicly acknowledged he was paid to speak at the event.
Trump is reportedly set to meet Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his first meeting with a Russian government official since the inauguration.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 10, 2017
For now, Andrew G. McCabe will lead the FBI. McCabe joined the bureau in 1996 and was appointed deputy director in January 2016.