President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey—a move that comes as the FBI is probing contacts between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials ahead of last year’s presidential election.
“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 Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Comey, who was appointed FBI Director by former President Barack Obama in 2013 to a 10-year term, has come under fire for his handling of both the Trump campaign probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
H/T The Hill:
“The FBI 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,” Trump said in a statement announcing Comey’s termination.
In a letter to the President Trump Tuesday, Sessions wrote that after an evaluation, he had concluded that “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.”
“It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions,” Sessions wrote. “The Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and who sets the right example for our law enforcement officials and others in the Department.”
Earlier in the day, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, saying that only a “small number” of emails had been forwarded to disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, not the “hundreds and thousands” he’d claimed in his testimony.
The letter was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, more than a week after Comey testified for hours in defense of his handling of the Clinton probe.
“This letter is intended to supplement that testimony to ensure that the committee has the full context of what was reviewed and found on the laptop,” wrote FBI Assistant Director Gregory Brower.
In defending the probe at last week’s hearing, Comey offered seemingly new details to underscore the seriousness of the situation FBI agents faced last fall when they discovered thousands of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s emails on the computer of her husband, Anthony Weiner.
“Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information,” Comey said, adding later, “His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state.”
At another point in the testimony, Comey said Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information.”
Neither of those statements is accurate, said people close to the investigation.
Tuesday’s letter said “most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner.”
The letter also corrected the impression Mr. Comey’s testimony had left with some listeners that 12 classified emails were among those forwarded by Abedin to Weiner.
“Investigators identified approximately 49,000 emails which were potentially relevant to the investigation,” the letter said. “All were reviewed with a particular focus on those containing classified information. Investigators ultimately determined that two e-mail chains containing classified information were manually forwarded to Mr. Weiner’s account.”
Ten other emails chains that contained classified information were found on the laptop as a result of backup activity.
At the hearing last week, Comey spent hours defending his handling of the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private server for work while she was secretary of state, saying it made him “mildly nauseous” to think his decisions might have affected the outcome of the presidential election, but insisting that he had no regrets and would not have handled it differently.
Comey’s decision-making during the Clinton inquiry has come under sustained criticism from Democrats – including Clinton – who say it was a major factor that contributed to her presidential election defeat in November to Donald Trump. On Oct. 28, less than two weeks before Election Day, the director notified Congress that new Clinton-related emails had been found on a laptop belonging to Weiner.
Days later, investigators obtained a search warrant to examine about 3,000 messages on the device that were work-related. Of those, Comey said, agents found a dozen that contained classified information, but they were messages investigators had already seen.
Comey’s public comments about the Clinton case have been a source of public debate since he first announced last July that he would not recommend charges against anyone in connection with her use of a private server for government business.
At the time, he called the use of the server “extremely careless” but said it did not rise to the level of a crime.
President Trump said it was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the nation’s top law enforcement agency following several tumultuous months.
“The FBI 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,” Trump said in a statement.
Here’s a copy of Trump’s letter to Director Comey:
Looks like the White House will be busy searching for a new FBI director! Best of luck in your future endeavors….Mr. Comey.
Personally, I agree with the two-page memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that called for Comey’s ouster, which stated that “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice.”