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President Trump (left) says he fired F.B.I. Director James Comey (right) over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
AP Images (Trump); Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA Press (Comey)
Trump Fires F.B.I. Director Comey
The controversial move comes amid an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election

BY Michael D. Shear and Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump abruptly fired Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.) director James Comey, sending shock waves through Washington, D.C.

Trump says he was advised by Department of Justice officials to fire Comey over his handling of the investigation into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The investigation took place during the 2016 election. They say Comey’s actions weakened America’s trust in his judgment.

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump wrote in a letter to Comey dated Tuesday.

But Democrats, and some Republicans, think the removal was intended to obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation led by Comey. The investigation is focused on whether Trump’s advisers worked with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey’s firing immediately sparked calls among Democrats for a special prosecutor to lead the Russia investigation. “If there was ever a time when circumstances warranted a special prosecutor, it is right now,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, said today.

Some Republicans also criticized the firing.

“I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable [explanation] for the timing of Comey’s firing,” Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, tweeted. “I just can’t do it.”

Other Republican lawmakers supported the president’s decision to fire Comey.

“The handling of the Clinton email investigation is a clear example of how Comey's decisions have called into question the trust and political independence of the F.B.I.,” said Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

The dismissal ended the tense relationship between Trump and Comey, who repeatedly clashed. To Trump, a president who values loyalty, Comey was an independent and unpredictable official with enormous power to disrupt his administration.

Though the president has the authority to fire the F.B.I. director for any reason, Comey is only the second director to be fired in bureau history.