Yes, Trump Just Fired FBI Director James Comey

The president says he believes Comey is "not able to effectively lead the bureau"

James Comey. — REUTERS
May 09, 2017 at 6:11 PM ET

President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in a shocking and practically unprecedented move on Tuesday evening.

The president blamed the firing on Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal last fall, but the bureau is also in the midst of investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Trump himself referenced Comey’s investigation in the firing letter, writing, “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.”

The Washington Post reported that the relationship between the Trump White House and the FBI had been strained after administration officials were pressuring Comey to pursue leak investigations.

Leading Democrats were swift to suggest that Trump’s decision was in fact related to the Russia investigation. In a press conference Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the president to appoint an independent special prosecutor to take over that investigation, saying otherwise many will “suspect a cover-up.” Later on in the night, Democratic leaders on the House Judiciary Committee called on the FBI and the Justice Department to preserve all documents and materials related to their investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as all files related to Comey’s dismissal.

According to Tuesday’s statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Trump made the move based on “clear recommendations” from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation earlier this year.

The White House added that the search for a new FBI director “will begin immediately.” Meanwhile, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will become acting the bureau’s acting director.

During the campaign, Trump, who’d been critical of Comey in the past, praised him for releasing an Oct. 28 letter about Clinton’s private email server, which Clinton herself recently blamed for her loss.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement that he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of Comey’s termination.

“I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by our committee,” he wrote.

Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway denied that Trump’s action had anything to do with the Russia investigation.

“It’s not a cover-up,” she said.