In a move that caught many by surprise on Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
In a letter to Comey, which was sent attached with a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump wrote:
I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.
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.
I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
In a memorandum he issued for the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein said that over the past year, “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice.” Rosenstein continued, stating that he is unable to “defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”
Further into the memorandum, the Deputy Attorney General elaborated, stating that Comey “was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement.” Rosenstein continued, saying that Comey made matters worse when he “ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”
To back up his claim that there was “universal judgment” that Comey was wrong, Rosenstein said that his perspective “is shared by former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties.” The memorandum then referred to criticism from Judge Laurence Silberman, Jamie Goreclick, Larry Thompson, Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzales, Eric Holder, and Donald Ayer.
In his letter to Trump, in response to the memorandum, Attorney General Sessions wrote that “Based on my evaluation, and for the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General…I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.” Sessions said, “The Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and who sets the right example for our law enforcement officials and others in the Department. Therefore, I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey, Jr. and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead…the FBI.”
The White House issued a statement to announce Trump’s decision to remove Comey, saying:
Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“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,” said President Trump.
A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately.
Comey was appointed the Director of the FBI by President Obama in September 2013. Prior to the appointment, Comey served as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and United States Deputy Attorney General from 2003-2005 under President George W. Bush.
Comey was criticized for his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. After recommending, on July 5, 2016, that no charges be filed against Clinton, he wrote a letter to Congress on October 28, 2016, announcing that the FBI had learned of the existence of additional emails and that they would be reviewed by investigators.The letter drew heavy criticism, as it went against Justice Department policy, and came as the 2016 Presidential Election was nearing. On November 6, 2016, just two days before the election, Comey sent a second letter to Congress, informing them that the FBI’s conclusions remained unchanged following the review.
The statement by the White House, President Trump’s letter, as well as Attorney General Sessions’, and the memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein can be found below: