President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey on Tuesday, at the recommendation of senior Justice Department officials who said he had treated Hillary Clinton unfairly and in doing so damaged the credibility of the FBI and the Justice Department.
The startling development comes as Comey was leading a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of Trump may have coordinated with Russia to interfere with the U.S. presidential election last year. It wasn’t immediately clear how Comey’s ouster will affect the Russia probe, but Democrats said they were concerned that his ouster could derail the investigation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, would be the acting director of the FBI. As a presidential candidate, Trump explicitly criticized Comey and McCabe for their roles in the Clinton probe while at other points praising Comey for his “guts.”
“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,” press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in the White House briefing room. The firing is effective “immediately,” he said.
Comey was in Los Angeles on Tuesday on a recruiting trip.
Officials said Comey was fired because senior Justice Department officials concluded that he had violated Justice Department principles and procedures last year by publicly discussing the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Democrats have long argued that Comey’s decisions in the months and days before the election hurt Clinton’s standing with voters and affected the outcome, but the president and his closest advisers had argued that Comey went too easy on Clinton and her aides.
Just last week, Trump publicly accused Comey of giving Clinton “a free pass for many bad deeds’’ when he decided not to recommend criminal charges in the case.
Officials released a Tuesday memo from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, laying out the rationale behind Comey’s dismissal and attributing it all to his handling of the Clinton case. Officials said Rosenstein began examining Comey’s conduct shortly after being sworn into office two weeks ago. (Washington Post)