President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey over his handling of the agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying new leadership is needed to restore the public’s trust and confidence.
Trump, in a letter to Comey, said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had both advised him to remove Comey, who has been at the center of attention over the past year.
“I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” Trump said in a letter to Comey. “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.”
In a detailed letter, Rosenstein criticized Comey for his handling of the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information during her time as secretary of state. Comey announced at a press conference last year that the FBI would recommend no charges to be filed but said Clinton had acted “extremely careless.”
“It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement,” Rosenstein said in his letter about Comey. “At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.”
“Compounding the error, the Director ignored another longstanding principle; we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation,” Rosenstein added, an apparent reference to Comey’s statement that Clinton had been “extremely careless.”
The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do,” the deputy attorney general said. He also criticized Comey for announcing days before the election that the FBI had re-opened the Clinton email probe, only to say days later that nothing had been found.
“The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong,” Rosenstein concluded. “As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”
The White House said the search for a new FBI director will begin immediately. “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.
Responding to the news, former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said on Twitter: “Twilight zone. I was as disappointed and frustrated as anyone at how the email investigation was handled. But this terrifies me.”
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