WASHINGTON – President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Even though he had often expressed confidence in Comey when asked about the director’s fate, President Trump has also been displeased with Comey over several issues, including his handling of the investigation into any collusion by his election campaign and the Russian government.
But the president has been especially critical of Comey for his decision not to prosecute Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign for her mishandling of classified information on her private email server while she was secretary of state.
On Tuesday, that frustration culminated in the director’s firing.
President Trump may have given a hint of what was to come when he posted a critical tweet a week ago:
“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”
In a statement released Tuesday by the White House, President 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.”
The White House said the search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately. Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, has apparently become acting director.
Former President Obama appointed Comey to a 10-year term in 2013, but the law gives the sitting president the right to fire the FBI director for any reason.
Multiple sources reported Comey learned about his firing by glancing up at a news report on a television screen, as he addressed field agents during a diversity seminar in Los Angeles.
He thought it was a prank and called if funny. But then Comey’s aides took him to a side room where he received the phone call letting him know it was no joke.
The president’s announcement said Comey was removed from office upon the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The case against Comey was detailed in a three-page memorandum from Rosenstein, who the New York Times said “has a reputation as a by-the-book, nonpartisan prosecutor,” acquired as the United States attorney in Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Copies of Session’s letter and Rosenstein’s memo calling for the removal of the FBI director are reprinted at the end of this article.
The documents, particularly the memo, make clear that the decision not to prosecute Clinton was the key element that ultimately led to Comey’s dismissal.
Sessions wrote to the president: “Based on my evaluation, and for the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General in the attached memorandum, I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.”
Rosenstein’s memo stated: “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, “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.
“At most, the Director should have said the FBI has completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.”
Comey gave a highly unusual press conference on July 5, 2016, in which he spent most of it severely criticizing Clinton for the way she mishandled classified information on her private email system. Then, at the end of the press conference, the director did an abrupt about-face and announced he had decided not to recommend the Justice Department press criminal charges against the Democratic Party presidential nominee.
That shocked legal experts for two reasons.
One, the FBI’s job is not to recommend whether to press charges. After an investigation, the bureau customarily just hands the evidence over to Justice Department prosecutors, who then make the decision whether to file charges. And, in this instance, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch merely announced she would accept Comey’s recommendation, and charges were never filed.
Secondly, as WND reported at the time, top legal experts were startled that Comey based his decision on his stated belief that Clinton had no intent to mishandle classified information. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy told WND, and has since detailed extensively in published reports, the federal statute governing the mishandling of classified information doesn’t even mention intent.
Some Democratic lawmakers were livid over the firing.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., even demanded “immediate emergency hearings” over Comey’s dismissal.
Democrats were specifically upset that Trump fired Comey during the middle of an investigation into possible meddling in the 2016 election by the Russian government that includes allegations that Moscow somehow colluded with the Trump campaign.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., declared: “President Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director Comey smacks of President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. If this is an effort to stop the investigations into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, it won’t succeed.”
And Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, “Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues.”
However, by top Democrats’ own admission, investigators have not found any evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign or administration.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said last week she had seen no such evidence. Other Democrats on the Intelligence committee have said they don’t expect to find any evidence of collusion.
Fierce Trump critic Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has had to admit there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Obama’s own former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, have said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.
And, in his letter dismissing the FBI director, President Trump made a point of telling Comey, “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.”
That letter also stated, “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
And, “You are hereby terminated and removed from office immediately.”
The president informed key Democratic lawmakers, including Feinstein, of his decision to fire Comey, before telling the director himself.
“The next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee,” she said in a statement.
The president also called Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who told reporters: “I said, ‘Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a very big mistake.’ And he didn’t really answer.”
One notable Republican who was upset was the senator who chairs Intelligence Committee investigation into Russia. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.”
The following is the letter Trump sent Comey to inform the director he was fired:
This is the letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending Trump fire Comey:
And here is the letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommending the president fire Comey: