FBI Director James Comey has been fired by President Trump, the White House said Tuesday.
According to a statement issued by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:
Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” said President Trump.
A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately.
Spicer told reporters early Tuesday evening that Comey had been notified a short time ago and that his removal was immediate.
Trump informed Comey of his removal in a letter Tuesday in which he said he concurs with the judgment of Attorney General Sessions that “you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” writing, “you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”
Comey is currently in hot water because he overstated the case last week when he said Hillary Clinton advisor Huma Abedin had sent “hundreds and thousands” of emails with classified information to her then-husband Andrew Weiner.
The FBI Tuesday released a letter stating that, in fact, only a small number of emails with classified information had been forwarded. The letter said “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.’’
Comey’s competence has at various times been questioned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Hillary Clinton recently stated that Comey’s decision to reopen her email probe during the last days of the election helped cost her the presidency.
The White House Tuesday released information mainly quoting Democrats calling for Comey’s ouster.
Comey is heading up the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and transition aides and Russian officials. It seems possible the quotes from Democrats are meant to defuse potential accusations that Trump was firing Comey to head off the investigation.
Earlier Tuesday, Spicer noted that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had been the latest official to say no evidence had emerged showing collusion between Trump officials and the Russians. Spicer said it was time to move on from the case.
“Even Director Clapper said yesterday when asked if there was any evidence that he had seen of collusion, he said no,” Spicer said. “And I think that at some point — I said it before in this briefing room — but we have to take no for an answer.”
Monday, Trump suggested in a tweet that it was time for the probe to come to an end.
The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
Appearing on CNN, liberal analyst Jeffrey Toobin staked out what is likely to be a recurring theme of Democratic criticism, calling the firing a “grotesque abuse of power” meant to squash an investigation into the president. But Toobin, a former prosecutor who compared Trump’s move to Richard Nixon’s actions during Watergate, admitted that the president has the power to fire Comey.
Trump, in his letter to Comey, was careful to suggest that the Russia probe did not prompt the firing.
“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 memorandum Tuesday to Attorney General Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cited Comey’s determination not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her inappropriate use of a private server to send her emails as Secretary of State.
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. 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. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General. On July 5, however, the Director announced his own conclusions about the nation’s most sensitive criminal investigation, without authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.
In a letter Tuesday to President Trump, Sessions recommended that Comey be cashiered.
“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 other in the department,” Sessions wrote. “I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey Jr.”