US President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the shock decision to fire his FBI director James Comey, the man who leads the agency charged with investigating his campaign’s ties with Russia.
The surprise dismissal of Comey, who played a controversial role in the 2016 presidential election, is sure to send shockwaves through Washington.
“The president has accepted the recommendation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.
A search for a new FBI director was to begin “immediately,” the White House said in a statement.
In a letter, Trump told Comey: “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate 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.”
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump said.
FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. The 56-year-old Comey, who is popular among rank-and-file agents, was appointed four years ago.
Democrat Hillary Clinton accused Comey of trashing her chances of becoming president by revealing an renewed investigation into her email use.
His dismissal will raise questions about Trump’s motives.
It will also prompt parallels with Richard Nixon’s decision to unceremoniously fire his attorney general, an event that plunged his presidency deeper into crisis.
Warner has faith in Russia probe
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday that the committee can conduct a credible investigation of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election, despite President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
“I think (Intelligence Committee) Chairman (Richard) Burr is still absolutely committed to having this investigation follow the facts,” US Senator Mark Warner told Reuters.
He also said he was open to the idea of a special prosecutor or special counsel, adding that it would not interfere with congressional investigations. But Warner he did not think a special committee would work if it included commissioners appointed by the Trump administration, questioning whether the administration could be impartial.
Trump to meet Lavrov
Meanwhile, Trump will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House on Wednesday to discuss Syria and a wide range of international issues, a senior US official said.
It will be the highest-level contact between Trump and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin since Trump took office on Jan. 20.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on the agenda would be Syria as well as U.S.-Russian relations and other global issues.
Relations deteriorated between the United States and Russia after US air strikes against a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally.
(With AFP, Reuters)