“Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office,” the White House statement reads.
President Trump has previously been critical of Comey, suggesting that his actions helped Hillary Clinton during the campaign, while Clinton blamed Comey and his late announcement about the FBI’s investigation into her email server contributed to her electoral college loss.
“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” Trump wrote in two tweets on May 2.
In the wake of those tweets, press secretary Sean Spicer said “the president has confidence in the director” on May 3.
At the White House press briefing today, however, Spicer was reluctant to repeat that statement without first checking with the president. When ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl pressed Spicer today about the Comey’s inaccurate statements to Congress regarding Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s handling of emails, Spicer said he’d have to speak to the president first.
“In light of what you are telling me, I don’t want to start speaking on behalf of the president without speaking to him first,” Spicer said.
Comey, 56, was appointed to head the FBI in September 2013 by then-President Barack Obama. FBI directors typically serve a 10-year term, and his firing today means that he will have only served less than four years. Prior to that, he served as a deputy attorney general and a state’s attorney.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, was one of the first politicians outside of the White House to release a statement. Graham acknowledged that it “was a difficult decision for all concerned” and said that he appreciates Comey’s public service.
“Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests,” Graham’s statement concluded.