President Donald Trump has just fired James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said that Trump had removed Comey from office acting “on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
The rationale for dismissing the director was laid in a letter signed by Rosenstein and addressed to President Trump. The official wrote that he could not defend Comey’s handling of the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails, adding that he did not understand the FBI director’s refusal to “accept the nearly universal judgement that he was mistaken.”
Announcing the end of the Clinton investigation was not Comey’s place, Rosenstein argued: “At most, the Director should have said the FBI completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.”
As a result of Comey’s actions, Rosenstein—a Trump appointee confirmed by the Senate less than a month ago—concluded that 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.”
Comey, who was appointed head of the FBI by former President Barack Obama in September 2013, has found himself at the center of a political whirlwind since the events of last summer. His decision to announce the reopening of the Hillary Clinton investigation just days before the 2016 election first caused an uproar among her supporters and the Democratic Party. To some, Comey is the reason that Clinton lost the election.
His announcement weeks ago that the FBI was conducting an investigation into potential ties between Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government further ensnared the bureau in a contentious partisan feud—the very thing the U.S. intelligence community has striven to avoid since the mid-1970s, when secret powers of surveillance were often used by presidents unlawfully to the detriment of their political foes.
Yesterday, ProPublica broke the news that Comey had misrepresented the actions of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey claimed that Abedin forwarded “hundreds of thousands” of work emails to her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, including some which contained classified material. Only a handful of the emails were actually forwarded by Abedin, however. The rest—largely duplicates of emails previously turned over to the FBI—likely appeared on Weiner’s laptop as a result of backups from her Blackberry, officials said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Justice Department clarified that Abedin had only forwarded “a small number” of the emails intentionally, including two which are said to contain classified information. An additional ten emails containing classified information were also found on Weiner’s laptop “as a result of backup activity,” the DOJ said.
Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is taking over as acting director, according to an internal FBI memo obtained by CNN. The White House said a search for Comey’s replacement is to 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,” the president said.
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