President Donald Trump has sacked FBI Director James Comey amid the bureau’s investigation into members of the president’s campaign and his former national security adviser.
The immediate reason, however, was Comey’s adamant position that there was no basis to charge Hillary Clinton over her email investigation.
The White House said in a statement Trump fired Comey based on recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Sessions and Rosenstein cited Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, accusing him of “usurping” the powers of the former attorney general and announcing the investigation was closed.
Neither men mentioned the ongoing investigation into purported ties between Trump’s circle and Russia related to Moscow’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election through hacking and propaganda.
“As you and I have discussed…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand the refusal to accept the nearly university judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”–Rosenstein, deputy attorney General
Andrew McCabe is the Acting FBI Director, previously serving as Comey’s deputy. Attorney General Sessions is expected to announce an interim director. The president will have to nominate a new director, who must be confirmed by the Senate.
“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,” Trump said in a letter to Comey. “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,” Trump continued, “I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau. 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.”
“I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” Trump said.
Attorney General Sessions wrote in a recommendation to Trump that “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.”
“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,” he added.
Rosenstein wrote, in a letter to Sessions: “As you and I have discussed…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand the refusal to accept the nearly university judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
“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 present 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,” he added. “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 the authorisation of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.”