So much for checks and balances. The Guardian is running live coverage: James Comey fired: Trump sacks FBI director, White House says – live (Updated)
What we know so far
FBI director James Comey has been fired by Donald Trump, who said in a letter that Comey was being “terminated and removed” because he was “not able to effectively lead the bureau.
The sacking came after 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, but critics believe the dismissal is more closely linked to Comey’s role in investigating Trump’s allies over alleged links to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Comey found out he had been fired while speaking to FBI employees in Los Angeles. He reportedly thought it was a prank.
The controversial move has been condemned by Democrats, many of whom said the sacking was “Nixonian” and some high profile Republicans including Trump supporters.
Justin Amash, a Republican congressman from Michigan said he was reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia in the wake of the news.
Richard Burr, a Republican leading the Senate intelligence committee investigation into Russia’s influence over the 2016 presidential election, said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of the decision.
Chuck Schumer, Democratic minority leader in the Senate, said he told Trump he was “making a very big mistake.”
Meanwhile, a CNN report claims that a grand jury has been convened and has started issuing subpoenas relating to the FBI’s Russia probe. The development, if confirmed suggests the investigation has entered a new phase.
Several Democratic officials have compared Trump’s decision to fire Comey to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday night massacre” when the president removed the special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox, leading to the the resignation of attorney general Elliot Richardson.
Senator Bob Casey called the termination “Nixonian” in a statement and noted Comey’s earlier statements saying he was authorized by the justice department to confirm the FBI’s investigations into Russian interference with American elections:
This is Nixonian. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special counsel to continue the Trump/Russia investigation. On March 20th Director Comey said, ‘I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.’
This investigation must be independent and thorough in order to uphold our nation’s system of justice.”
Here’s a quick overview of Comey’s legacy in the FBI and recent political controversies:
Comey’s FBI conducted investigations into both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 election – though he only disclosed the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia after his inauguration.
The FBI director’s controversial decision to release new details about the investigation into Clinton’s email server just days before the election prompted widespread outrage – and lingering suspicion that he swayed the final outcome.
Comey was appointed to the top FBI post by Barack Obama in 2013. He served in the George W Bush administration as a US attorney and deputy attorney general, before spending several years in the private sector.
Comey was the country’s top law enforcement during the period of turbulence over police killings of African Americans. He drew widespread condemnation for statements suggesting that violent crime was rising because law enforcement had been hampered by the so-called “Ferguson effect”.
Comey also waged a high-profile campaign against encryption, calling for tech companies to create “backdoors” to allow law enforcement access to user’s data.