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Trump to Comey: ‘You’re fired’

Jeremy Lazarus | 5/12/2017, 6:04 a.m.
President Trump, who previously was full of praise for FBI Director James Comey, fired him on Tuesday, stunning Washington and ...
Former FBI Director James Comey

The president told Mr. Comey in the letter that he accepted the recommendation of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Mr. Comey could no longer provide effective FBI leadership.

Mr. Comey’s term was to run through September 2023. He took the job in 2013 after securing appointment from then President Obama and winning Senate confirmation.

Mr. Sessions was an adviser to the Trump campaign before being picked by President Trump to lead the Justice Department. Mr. Sessions had promised to avoid any involvement in the Russia investigation after he lied to a congressional committee about his own 2016 contacts with Russian officials in Washington. His request that the president fire Mr. Comey appears to contradict that promise, Democrats said.

Mr. Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, is now the acting FBI director. The White House said the search for a new permanent director would begin immediately.

Pushing back against critics of the move, White House officials said the president also acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a career prosecutor who took office on April 25 and quickly concluded that Mr. Comey should be dismissed.

Mr. Rosenstein sent his recommendation to Mr. Sessions, who concurred and they forwarded their recommendation to President Trump, who accepted it on Tuesday, they said.

The White House released a memo in which Mr. Rosenstein wrote: “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.”

Mr. Rosenstein cited several former Justice Department officials’ comments criticizing Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, including his public statements.

But one of those he cited, Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, said in an email that the administration’s explanation of the firing was “a sham.”