Trump fires FBI director Comey
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the shock decision to fire his FBI director James Comey, the man who leads the agency charged with investigating his campaign’s ties with Russia.
The surprise dismissal of Comey, who played a controversial role in the 2016 presidential election, is sure to send shockwaves through Washington.
“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,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.
A search for a new FBI director was to begin “immediately,” the White House said in a statement.
In a letter, Trump told Comey: “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, 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,” Trump said.
FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. The 56-year-old Comey, who is popular among rank-and-file agents, was appointed four years ago.
Democrat Hillary Clinton accused Comey of trashing her chances of becoming president by revealing an renewed investigation into her e-mail use.
His dismissal will raise questions about Trump’s motives.
It will also prompt parallels with Richard Nixon’s decision to unceremoniously fire his attorney general, an event that plunged his presidency deeper into crisis.
The US Senate’s top Democrat said he told President Donald Trump it was a “big mistake” to fire FBI chief James Comey amid a probe into Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s election
“Earlier this afternoon, President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey. I told the president, ‘Mr President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake,’” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.
Schumer joined several of his Democratic colleagues in calling for an independent prosecutor or commission to investigate claims of Russian interference, as well as possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.
Key dates in the Trump-Comey relationship
Donald Trump and FBI director James Comey, who was fired by the president on Tuesday, have been on a collision course since last year when US intelligence discovered a Russian plot to interfere in the presidential election.
Here are key dates in the saga:
July 2016: The FBI quietly opens an investigation into Russian interference in the US election, which would only be officially revealed eight months later
October 7, 2016: US intelligence officials announce that top Russian officials are behind hacking and disinformation operations designed to disrupt the election
November 8, 2016: Trump wins the election in a shock upset over Democrat Hillary Clinton, under the shadow of Russian interference and Comey’s controversial handling of an investigation into Clinton’s private email server
December 10, 2016: Democrats accuse Comey of withholding information about Russian election interference during the campaign to boost Trump
January 6, 2017: Comey and three other top intelligence officials brief Trump on their conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the bid to interfere with the election, in support of Trump
Mid-January 2017: Trump asks Comey to stay in his post in the new administration
February 14, 2017: The FBI rejects a White House request to refute a New York Times story alleging numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence
February 24, 2017: Trump blasts the FBI over news reports on the Russia case, tweeting: “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time”
March 8, 2017: Comey says he plans to stay in his job for a full 10-year term, until 2023, quipping: “You are stuck with me for another six-and-a-half years
March 20, 2017: Comey confirms for the first time that the FBI is investigating Russian interference in the election – including any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and any possible coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.
He also flatly denies Trump’s claim that former president Barack Obama ordered investigators to tap the phones at Trump’s New York home.
May 9, 2017: Trump fires Comey