President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI director James Comey citing over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. This move comes after concerns rose over the independence of the bureau’s probe over Russia’s interference in the Trump campaign in last year’s US Presidential election. Comey was appointed as the director of FBI in 2013 by Barack Obama.
Trump said, “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.” His dismissal was recommended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The shocking dismissal of Comey comes after he incorrectly testified about Clinton running a private e-mail server in her New York residence when she was secretary of state and the FBI’s probe into Russian election interference.
In a letter to James Comey, the president wrote: “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. It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
In a memo released on Tuesday, Rosenstein wrote: “The director was wrong to usurp the attorney general’s authority on 5 July 2016, and announce his conclusion that the [Clinton] case should be closed without prosecution.”
The memo added: “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 … 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.”
According to official statement from the White House, the search for America’s top law enforcement official will commence immediately and Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe will take over the position in the interim.
Anthony Romero, the American Civil Liberties Union’s executive director, said that “The independence of the FBI director is meant to ensure that the president does not operate above the law. For President Trump to fire the man responsible for investigating his own campaign’s ties to the Russians imperils that fundamental principle.”
Democrats in Washington were equally alarmed. “The president has removed the sitting FBI Director in the midst of one of the most critical national security investigations in the history of our country—one that implicates senior officials in the Trump campaign and administration. This is nothing less than Nixonian,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a statement.
Democrat Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said: “The same president who has called the investigation into the Russian hacking of our democracy and the potential complicity of his campaign a ‘fake’ cannot pretend to have made such a decision uninfluenced by his concerns over Comey’s continued involvement in the investigation. It is more imperative than ever that an independent prosecutor be appointed.”
Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said: “This is Nixonian. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special counsel to continue the Trump/Russia investigation … this investigation must be independent and thorough in order to uphold our nation’s system of justice.”