Trump fires FBI Director James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey
Donald Trump's most famous phrase is "You're fired." But when it came to FBI Director James Comey, he used a lot more than two words.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Trump, acting on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, relieved Comey of his duties, effective immediately.
According to the New York Times, Trump wrote a letter to Comey stating he believed the director was no longer capable of heading the FBI.
“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 wrote in a letter to Comey.
According to the New York Times, Sessions wrote in a letter to the president that the FBI needed a “fresh start.”
“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,” Sessions wrote.
Rosenstein, meanwhile, wrote in a memo to Sessions that Comey had behaved inappropriately in 2016, when he initially said Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted. Rosenstein argued it was up to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch whether or not to prosecute Clinton and that Comey had overstepped his bounds and trampled on longstanding precedent by going public with his findings. Rosenstein cited arguments made by several former attorneys general from both parties that Comey had broken with tradition and had undermined public trust in the FBI.
“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,” Rosenstein wrote. “Having refused to admit his errors, the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”
Rosenstein touched briefly on Comey’s late-October letter in which he said he had re-opened the investigation in light of new evidence, writing that Comey’s casting of his choice as binary (publicize or conceal) was inaccurate.
“We are not concealing anything,” Rosenstein wrote. “We are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing nonpublic information.”
The termination came hours after the FBI sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee clarifying some misstatements Comey had made, last week, during his testimony about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and his handling of the Clinton email investigation. Comey had testified that Clinton aide Huma Abedin had forwarded “hundreds and thousands of emails” to her husband, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. After the Washington Post reported that Abedin had only forwarded a small number of emails to her husband, FBI Deputy Director Gregory Brower sent the clarification letter to the Senate.
“The FBI believes it is reasonable to conclude that most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner,” Brower wrote.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the search for a new FBI director will occur immediately. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, were critical of Trump’s move and several have called for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to continue with the Russia probe.
“[Trump’s] decision to fire him now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous,” said Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, in a statement. “Director Comey should be immediately called to testify in an opening hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”