US President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017, fired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey. The announcement has sent shock waves in Washington.
As per reports, the sacking came after US attorney general Jeff Sessions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein recommended to Trump that he be removed over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
The move to terminate James Comey has made Democrats to lash out at US administration led by Trump.
While we find the reason for Comey's dismissal from service, let us also take a look at the content of the termination letter, which has been described as bizarre and shocking!
Donald Trump announced James Comey's dismissal. The Bureau has been investigating Russia's role in Trump's election campaign.
Comey learnt about his dismissal while addressing agents at the FBI field office in Los Angeles. As Comey was talking to the agents, news of his firing appeared on televisions channels. On hearing the news, Comey chuckled. He then completed his address, retired to a separate room and called his office to confirm the news. He did not comment on his removal from office.
In a letter addressed to Comey, Donald Trump said that he could not lead the Bureau properly and called for new leadership that can restore public trust and confidence.
Dear Director Comey,
I have received the attached letters from the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General, General Rod Rosenstein, recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately. 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.
I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.
Donald J. Trump
The Justice Department in a letter recommending Comey's dismissal said Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation was so bad that it caused people to lose trust in the FBI.
The letter mentioned about a press conference in 2016 in which Comey criticised Clinton's handling of her private email server, even as he admitted that the FBI didn't uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Then in October 2016, just days before the election, Comey released a letter that suggested there was new evidence in the Clinton investigation. However, this evidence was not significant. According to some recent allegations, some of Comey's testimonies to Congress about the Clinton investigation were reported to be false.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump's decision arrived only after receiving a long memo from the Deputy Attorney General that gave details about Comey's "shortcomings on investigating Clinton's emails."
However, a section of White House officials said that Trump had been considering firing Comey for at least a week before he made the decision on May 9. Indeed, Trump revealed his anger in a string of late-night messages on Twitter on May 2, 2017, exactly a week before his final decision was made public.
Rosenstein accused Comey of attempting to "usurp the attorney general's authority" by publicly announcing why he felt the case should be closed without prosecution. In his memo, Rosenstein argued, "Compounding the error, the Director ignored another longstanding principle: We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation."
The Congressmen have reacted harshly to Comey's removal. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he told Trump on the telephone that he had made a terrible mistake.
"Were these investigations getting too close to home for the President?" Schumer asked. He said, "This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration."
Republican Senator Richard Burr, who is leading Senate Intelligence Committee probe into alleged Russian influence on the election, expressed discomfort at the firing of Comey, which he described as a loss for the bureau and the nation.
"I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee," Burr said.
Senator John McCain said, "While the President has the legal authority to remove the director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President's decision to remove James Comey from office."
"I was as frustrated, concerned and disappointed as anyone with Director Comey's handling of the email investigation, but President Trump just fired the man investigating how Russia meddled in our election and whether members of his campaign were involved, an investigation President Trump called charade only 24 hours ago," said Clinton's former campaign manager Robby Mook.
Senior Justice Department and FBI officials are shocked by the development. Comey's term was due to run till 2023. The decade-long tenure was introduced to shield FBI Directors from being drawn into politics, but the position is still subject to dismissal at the pleasure of the President.
Comey is the second FBI Agent to be dismissed from service. According to Fox News Research, "Since 1972, Comey is only the second FBI Director to be removed by the President."
Last removal took place in July 1993, when President Clinton fired FBI Director William Sessions on the issue of conduct and leadership.