President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, according to a statement from the White House.
In a statement from the press office, the White House said Trump acted on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“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,” Trump said in a statement announcing Comey’s termination.
In a letter to the president Tuesday, Sessions wrote that after an evaluation, he had concluded that “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.”
“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 wrote. “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.”
In his own memorandum to the Attorney General Tuesday, Rosenstein said the reputation and credibility of the FBI had “suffered substantial damage” in the last year. The deputy attorney general cited Comey’s handling of the investigation into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server as a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”
The president also sent a letter to Comey Tuesday informing him he had been terminated effective immediately.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau,” Trump wrote. “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
Comey did not immediately release a statement confirming his dismissal.
Comey was appointed FBI Director by former president Barack Obama in September 2013.
He served as deputy attorney general under the George W. Bush administration from December 2003 until August 2005. Prior to that, he was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he prosecuted a number of major terrorism and criminal cases.
He also worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1996 to 2001, and had served as general counsel and senior vice president for Lockheed Martin and general counsel for the investment firm Bridgewater Associates.
Comey became a controversial figure in the 2016 presidential race for the agency’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s private email server. He came under fire again days before the November 8 election when he announced the discovery of additional emails related to the investigation.
In March, Comey testified that the FBI was investigating the Russian government’s possible interference in the 2016 election, including the “nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
During his appointment ceremony in October 2013, Comey described the obligation of the FBI as having to balance independence from “all political forces and interests” in the United States with its enforcement of the rule of law and the country’s system of checks and balances.
“You see, those three words — Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity — capture the essence of the FBI and its people. And they also explain why I am here,” Comey said at the time, according to a White House transcript. “I wanted to be here to work alongside those people, to represent them, to help them accomplish their mission, and to just be their colleague.”