President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday after senior Justice Department officials concluded that he’d mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
“You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” Trump told Comey in a personally signed letter obtained by NBC News. “While I greatly appreciate your informing me, on three 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,” the president wrote.
The FBI has been investigating allegations that people involved with Trump’s presidential campaign had undisclosed ties to Russia. Republicans and Democrats alike said the dismissal called the FBI’s independence into question, and many Democrats immediately called for appointment of an independent counsel to take over the investigation.
“Everyone will suspect a coverup” otherwise, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said at a hastily called news conference, adding: “Given the way the president fired Director Comey, any person appointed to replace him should be concerned that he or she will suffer the same fate if they run afoul of the Trump administration.”Schumer said he’d personally told Trump “I think you’ve made a mistake.”
The FBI said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that Comey grossly overstated the number of emails that Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded to husband, Anthony Weiner, while working at the State Department. The White House said the dismissal had already been in the works before the FBI acknowledged Comey’s inaccurate testimony. But three senior FBI and Justice Department officials told NBC News that Comey was given no warning in advance.