FBI Director James Comey has been personally removed from office by President Donald Trump, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and reported by numerous outlets, including ABC News.
The short statement says, “Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office.”
The statement says Trump “made the decision based on the clear recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.” It also reads, “Today will mark a new day for our crown jewel of law enforcement.”
It’s not clear whether Comey’s removal will decapitate the FBI investigation into Russian ties to the Trump campaign, from which Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. In March, Comey testified that the FBI was investigating ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian intelligence.
A memorandum written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein describes the Justice Department’s case against Comey, which he says begins and ends with Comey’s handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Rosenstein says the FBI “suffered substantial damage” to the reputation and credibility of the institution “over the past year.”
The Trump administration has not elaborated on why they decided to fire Comey at this time, when ample opportunity existed after Inauguration Day. As president, Donald Trump has the power to replace the FBI Director at any time; Rosenstein’s memo reiterates this.
Rosenstein writes that he “cannot defend” Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use, nor its conclusion, and flays Comey for unilaterally closing the case against Clinton last year even after determining that there had been wrongdoing.
Some have credited the letter Comey made public on Oct. 28, 2016, with giving Trump the election.