In a surprize move, US President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey who was leading the investigation into whether his election campaign had ties to Russia’s alleged interference in the US polls.
In a letter, Trump told Comey that he was no longer effectively able to lead the bureau and it was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in it.
“You are hereby terminated and removed from the office, effective immediately,” Trump said in the letter.
The shock move comes days after Comey testified on Capitol Hill about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and a possible collusion between the country and Trump’s campaign.
In the letter, Trump acknowledged that Comey had informed him “on three separate occasions” that he was not under investigation. “I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” he added.
The White House said the search for a new FBI director would begin immediately.Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters: “The president has accepted the recommendation of the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) and the deputy Attorney General (Rod Rosenstein) regarding the dismissal.”
In a statement released by the White House, 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.”
Comey had courted controversy during the 2016 presidential polls when he revealed a renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use, which the Democrat claimed had hurt her chances of becoming president.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in his letter to Trump, criticised Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe, including the director’s decision to hold a press conference announcing its findings and releasing “derogatory information” about her.
“I cannot 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 judgement that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein said, adding that Comey was wrong to “usurp” the Attorney General’s authority on July 5 last year and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution.
In a separate letter, Sessions said he has concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI, based on his evaluation as well the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General.
“It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions,” Sessions said.