President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey at the request of top Department of Justice officials.
Comey’s surprise exit caps months spent under the intense heat generated by high-profile investigations linked to the 2016 presidential election, including months-long inquiries into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s use of a private email system and the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
Comey had more than six years remaining in his 10-year term. The news was reportedly unexpected among FBI staff.
FLASH / NBC News' Pete Williams: FBI senior staff in shock. Senior staff was unaware of this happening.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) May 9, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from any investigation into Russia after he falsely claimed under oath to have not met any Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, led the charge to fire the man leading that investigation.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump fired Comey at the request of Sessions and his deputy. “Today, President Donald Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” Spicer said.
Speaking with reporters at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, Spicer reiterated Rosenstein and Sessions’ roles in the decision. “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 said.
Rosenstein said in his letter that Comey’s handling of the FBI investigation into Clinton, which did not result in any charges despite the mishandling of classified information, played a part in Comey’s ouster.
Letters from Trump, Sessions, and Rosenstein on James Comey pic.twitter.com/msc7QBV3xL— Allan Smith (@akarl_smith) May 9, 2017
Trump’s letter to Comey indicates that the FBI director informed the president “on three separate occasions” that he was not under investigation.
Comey’s firing comes just hours after ProPublica reported that America’s top law enforcement official had made false claims about Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton emails to her husband, disgraced former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday, the FBI corrected Comey’s testimony.
Comey’s letter informing Congress that investigators had discovered additional Clinton emails on Weiner’s computer is believed to have played a significant role in Trump’s 2016 election victory.