President Trump Fires F.B.I. Director James Comey
In a surprising late-day announcement, President Trump has fired James Comey, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who has been at the center of controversies involving the 2016 Presidential election, including an ongoing investigation involving Russian interference in the election an the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia:
FBI Director James B. Comey has been dismissed by the president, according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer – a startling move that officials said stemmed from a conclusion by Justice Department officials that he had mishandled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“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,” Spicer told reporters in the briefing room.
Spicer also said that Comey was “notified a short time ago.” This is effective “immediately,” he said.
Officials said Comey was fired because senior Justice Department officials concluded he had violated Justice Department principles and procedures by publicly discussing the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of private email. Just last week, President 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.
“The FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice,” Rosenstein wrote. “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal 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.”
In a letter to Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he agreed.
“I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI,” Sessions wrote. “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.”
WASHINGTON — President Trump has fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the White House said on Tuesday.
Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“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,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.
Officials at the F.B.I. said they were not immediately aware of Mr. Comey’s dismissal, which Mr. Trump described as effective immediately.
In a separate letter released at the White House, Mr. Spicer said that the president informed the director that he has been “terminated and removed from office.”
Memos released by the White House show that Rod J. Rosenstein, the newly sworn-in deputy attorney general, that recommended Mr. Comey be fired over how he disclosed the investigation into Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Comey broke with longstanding tradition and policies by discussing the case and chastising the Democratic presidential nominee’s “careless” handling of classified information. Then, in the campaign’s final days, Mr. Comey announced that the F.B.I. was reopening the case, a move that earned him widespread criticism.
“The F.B.I. 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,” Mr. Trump said in the statement.
The announcement came at the end of a day in which it was revealed that Comey had testified incorrectly last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. In that testimony, Comey had turned out Clinton’s personal aide Huma Abedin had been engaging in a regular practice of sending email from the server to her husband Anthony Weiner for him to print out for Clinton’s use. Today’s revelations indicated that this was inaccurate in that Abedin had only forwarded only a small amount of those emails to Weiner and that most of them had ended up on the laptop due to automatic backups of Abedin’s phone to the laptop, which was apparently jointly used by her and her estranged husband during the time they were still living together. Less than an hour before the White House released the letter from Trump firing Comey, the Bureau had released a letter addressed to the committee seeking to clarify Comey’s testimony regarding this aspect of the Clinton investigation. It was also during this testimony that Comey confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into both the efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the Presidential election and the allegations regarding contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials and others in Russia with ties to the Russian government and Vladimir Putin.
This decision is already being compared to the infamous Saturday Night Massacre that occurred during the Watergate investigation during which President Nixon fired both his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General over their refusal to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, and it’s certainly easy to understand why people might make that comparison. Notwithstanding the fact that the memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein focused largely on Comey’s actions in July of last year when he held a press conference to announce the results of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the fact that this is occurring less than a week after Comey confirmed in public that the Bureau was investigating Trump associates regarding their ties with Russia is certainly sufficient to raise doubts about the legitimacy of this decision. This is especially true given the fact that Trump ended up praising Comey’s decision in October of last year to release a letter he sent to Congress supplementing his testimony to reveal that the Bureau was reopening the investigation due to the discovery of additional email on the Weiner/Abedin laptop that were connected to Clinton’s private server. Given that, the suspicion that Comey was fired because of the investigation of Trump associates is not at all without merit. Whether there is any merit to that suspicion is something that only time will tell.
In any case, this is a fast-developing story and there will be further developments and reactions throughout the night and into tomorrow. Some Democrats in the Senate have already issued statements calling for an investigation into the circumstances behind Comey’s firing and the question of the status of the investigation into the Trump-Russia connections. At its best, it is a suspicious move by a President whose campaign is under investigation. At its worst, it’s just the latest development into a sordid tale that could become the biggest problem a President has faced since Iran-Contra, or worse. As things stand, though, suspicion of the motives behind this decision certainly seem to be warranted.
Here are the copies of the White House Statement on the firing of Director Comey, including the letter from the President to Comey, a letter from the Attorney General, and the aforementioned Memorandum from the Deputy Attorney General: