Washington, United States | AFP | 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 email 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.
— Nikole Killion (@NikolenDC) May 9, 2017
Who is Comey?
Just last week, FBI Director Comey said he felt “nauseous” at the thought he swayed last year’s US election by announcing he was reopening a probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before the vote.
But the FBI chief told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee it would have been far worse to conceal his decision — which the Democrat Clinton claims was a key factor in her defeat to Donald Trump.
“It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had impact on the election,” he said. “But, honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”
Comey shocked the country when he informed Congress he was reopening the probe into Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server as secretary of state, months after declaring the probe found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The about-face followed the discovery of missing Clinton emails with classified material on the laptop of a former congressman on October 27 last year, days before the November 8 election.
The emails were found on a computer belonging to disgraced former lawmaker Anthony Weiner, implicated in recurring internet sex scandals, who also happens to be the husband of Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide.
Comey said he was faced with two options: either conceal the investigation until after the vote, or inform Congress.
“Speak would be really bad. There’s an election in 11 days. Lordy, that would be really bad,” Comey said.
“Concealing in my view would be catastrophic.”
Congress was duly informed, and the news leaked out immediately on October 28, casting a cloud over Clinton.
The FBI was sharply attacked as taking a political stance and Democrats continue to bristle over Comey’s actions.