On Tuesday afternoon, in a shock move, President Trump fired FBI director James Comey, the most controversial head of the agency since J. Edgar Hoover. The statement from the press secretary explained:
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.
Here is the letter from Rosenstein, which is well-stated and correct:
Dep AG recommendation--> pic.twitter.com/krtWrGdgvt— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) May 9, 2017
And here is Trump's letter:
Trump's letter firing Comey is savage pic.twitter.com/hrhhijsKic— Benny (@bennyjohnson) May 9, 2017
Finally, here is Sessions' letter:
This is an important and necessary move, given lack of trust for Comey from both sides of the political aisle: the Left believes that Comey’s intervention in the late stages of the election with his letter suggesting a re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server lost her the election; the Right believes Comey wrongly let Hillary off the hook in the first place, and that Comey’s subsequent musings have been self-serving and ridiculous.
Just a few months ago, Trump patted Comey on the back after being elected:
President Trump shakes hands with FBI Director Comey, gives him a back pat and jokes, “He's become more famous than me.” pic.twitter.com/kiVN12JUzp— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 22, 2017
Earlier today, reports broke that Comey had overstated evidence while testifying before Congress regarding Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Comey said that “hundreds and thousands” of emails had been forwarded by Abedin to her husband, Anthony Weiner; those emails were uncovered by law enforcement during an investigation into Weiner’s alleged sexual misconduct with minors.
The FBI sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday stating that just a “small number” of such emails were forwarded. The letter also stated that “most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner.”
This still would not explain why the FBI did not recommend charging Abedin; forwarding emails is substantially less damning than backing up emails to a device owned by a person without any sort of security clearance.
Comey’s firing will certainly continue to raise questions about his conduct during and after the election cycle, and the search for a new FBI director will be a fraught one given the level of political polarization surrounding the agency in Comey’s wake. Democrats will undoubtedly suggest that Trump fired Comey to cover up some sort of Russian connection; Republicans will say that Trump fired Comey thanks to Comey’s wild incompetence.