President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. His termination is effective immediately, according to the White House.
Comey’s firing comes amid the ongoing FBI investigation into allegations that Trump’s presidential campaign had improper communication with Russian officials in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March, following revelations that he met with the Russian ambassador while he was a Trump campaign surrogate and later falsely testified about it.
The White House didn’t reference the Russia investigation in its public statements about Comey’s dismissal, however.
Nonetheless, some Democrats seized on the news to call for a special prosecutor to lead up the Russia investigation — and for close scrutiny into the circumstances surrounding Comey’s termination.
“Director Comey should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of the investigation into Russia and Trump associates at the time he was fired,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in a statement.
“There can be no question that a fully independent special counsel must be appointed to lead this investigation. At this point, no one in Trump’s chain of command can be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Comey was fired at the recommendation of Sessions and his deputy — who penned a letter to the president pointing to concerns over how Comey has handled public communication regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, which may have cost her the election.
In a letter to Comey informing him of his resignation, Trump wrote that “it is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
FBI Director Comey has been "terminated and removed from office." pic.twitter.com/z2or0M6oJB
— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) May 9, 2017
Comey’s termination follows his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, during which he continued to misrepresent the controversy surrounding Clinton’s emails.
Comey claimed that top Clinton aide Huma Abedin made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails to her husband, Anthony Weiner, “some of which contain classified information.” But, as ProPublica first reported this week, other FBI officials say that isn’t what happened. Abedin in fact forwarded just a handful of emails, none of which were classified at the time she sent them. On Tuesday afternoon, the FBI sent a letter to Congress to supplement Comey’s testimony.
What’s more, while Comey’s ouster allegedly came in response to his garbling of the facts, the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt reported that the White House and Justice Department had been “working on” firing Comey for longer than that, and that Sessions had been actively searching for a pretext.
WH and DOJ had been working on firing Comey since at least last week. Sessions had been working to come up with reasons.
— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) May 9, 2017
Former senior FBI official tells me: "I believe the intent here is to replace him with someone who will close" the Russia probe.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) May 9, 2017
It is highly unusual for the Trump camp to come to Hillary Clinton’s defense over her emails. During the campaign, Trump referred to his opponent as “Crooked Hillary” and suggested she should be jailed.
Ned Resnikoff contributed reporting. This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.