The action comes one week after Comey testified to a Senate panel about his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email server investigation; speculation had been brewing that President Trump might discharge Comey since he disapproves of the FBI’s investigation into his administration’s ties with Russia. He told Fox News on April 12 that it “wasn’t too late” to fire Comey.
A statement from the press secretary read:
“President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. ‘The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,’ said President Trump.”
Rosenstein’s memo recommending the action explained the official reasons for the dismissal:
“The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”
Officially, the FBI director works under the Attorney General.
The statement refers to Comey’s testimony to the Senate, in which he admitted that he felt “mildly nauseous” to think he’d influenced the 2016 presidential election in notifying the public about a new inquiry into Clinton’s emails, which turned out to be false flags. Comey insisted that he didn’t regret his actions and that he’d repeat them if he had the chance.
So, what happens now?
Will This Lead to More Leaks From the FBI?
Officials within the FBI have frequently leaked information to the press in recent months, much to Trump’s consternation. Many within the FBI are known to be loyal to Comey, so Trump’s move could encourage them to further leak material that might be damaging to the president.
What Impact Will This Have on the FBI’s Investigation Into Trump’s Ties to Russia?
Many are already raising the possibility that another unstated and dubious rationale exists behind Comey’s dismissal, since Trump fired the director in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into his administration. When Trump hires a new director, he could theoretically put pressure on that leader to ease up on the inquiry, though such a dramatically corrupt action would probably be leaked to the public.
How Long Will It Take Trump to Replace Comey?
Sean Spicer’s statement indicated, “A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately.” The previous and only other time that a president has fired an FBI Director was in 1993, when President Bill Clinton dismissed William Sessions. Clinton immediately replaced Sessions with an acting director, who held the position for just over six weeks before Clinton appointed a new permanent director, Louis J. Freeh. The process to replace Comey may follow a similar timeline. A new head will need to be nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and sworn in before he or she can begin.Photos via Getty Images / Zach Gibson