James Comey, the General Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation, was fired today by US President Donald Trump due to the way he handled the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the administration says.
The White House spokesman shocked the public by announcing that Comey “has been terminated from office” and that a new FBI director will be elected within the next few days.
The president cited Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as the reason behind his decision, but Democrats were quick to cry foul, and there were vociferous demands for a special prosecutor to be appointed to oversee the Russia inquiry. One Senate Democrat described the move as “Nixonian”.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that a grand jury had begun issuing subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser at the center of the ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in the election. If confirmed, the report suggests that the FBI’s investigation into the Trump camp’s links with Moscow has entered a significant new phase.
In a letter to 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.”
The dismissal of America’s top law enforcement official came days after he testified on Capitol Hill about Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state and the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Comey incorrectly testified that former Clinton aide Huma Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband’s laptop, including some with classified information. On Tuesday, the FBI informed the Senate judiciary committee that only “a small number” of the thousands of emails found on the laptop had been forwarded there, while most had simply been backed up from electronic devices.
Comey has been criticized by Democrats for the handling of his investigation into whether Mrs Clinton’s use of a private email server when secretary of state compromised national security. The now-former FBI director made two interventions during the 2016 election campaign to make pronouncements about the investigation.
He said in July the case should be closed without prosecution, but then declared – 11 days before November’s election – that he had reopened the inquiry because of a discovery of a new trove of Clinton-related emails.