WASHINGTON (CBS NEWS) — Embattled FBI Directory James Comey has been fired by President Donald Trump, according a statement released by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office,” Spicer said in a statement. “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,” President Trump said, according to the statement.
Spicer said the search for a new FBI director will begin immediately.
President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, according to a letter sent to Comey.
The firing comes as the FBI is investigating any Russian meddling in the 2016 election,associates. Comey had most recently come under fire , an aide to Hillary Clinton, forwarded to her husband, Anthony Weiner.
The White House released several documents after Comey’s firing, including the letter Mr. Trump informing Comey of his termination, the memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending Comey’s dismissal to the president, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo to Sessions on Comey.
“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,” Sessions wrote to the president. “Therefore, I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey, Jr., and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the FBI.
It was the strongly worded memo written by Rosenstein to Sessions that outlined Comey’s missteps and laid out the argument for his removal.
“The current FBI Director is an articulate and persuasive speaker about leadership and the immutable principles of the Department of Justice,” Rosenstein wrote. “He deserves our appreciation for his public service. As you and I have discussed, however, 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 judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
Rosenstein continued to expand his case for Comey’s removal, adding a succession of bad decisions on Comey’s part in handling the Clinton email case so publicly.
“The director 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,” Rosenstein continued. “It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement. At most, the director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”
The top Democrat in the Senate says he told Donald Trump “you are making a big mistake” when the president called to inform him that he was firing Comey.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday night that he received a call from the president.
Schumer questioned why the firing occurred on Tuesday and wondered whether investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia were “getting too close to home for the president.”
He called on the deputy attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor.
Said Schumer: “This investigation must be run as far away as possible” from the president.
Meanwhile, Republican John McCain says Congress must form a special committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election following President Donald Trump’s firing of Comey.
The Arizona senator said he has long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russian interference in the election and said Trump’s decision to remove Comey “only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”
McCain said he was disappointed in Trump’s decision, calling Comey a man of honor and integrity who led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Comey’s dismissal “will raise questions” and said “it is essential that ongoing investigations are free of political interference until their completion.”
He said Trump must nominate a well-respected person to replace Comey
California and Bay Area lawmakers weighed in with reaction after the firing was made public.
In a statement, Senator Dianne Feinstein said President Trump called her to indicate he’d be removing director Comey, saying the FBI needed a change.
As the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she wrote, “The next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the judiciary committee.”
Senator Kamala Harris wrote on Twitter: “I’ve said it before and will again — we must have a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI’s Russia investigation. This cannot wait.”
East Bay Congressman Eric Swalwell — who sits on the House Intelligence Committee — issued the strongest statement, saying in part: “President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey should send a chill down the spine of every American, no matter who they voted for. This is not what an innocent person would do; this is an abuse of power, and shows a consciousness of guilt.”