“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,” Trump said in a release.
Several senior officials within the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department said they were given no advance notice of the firing ahead of the press release, according to Tom Winter of NBC News.
The release said the White House will begin a search for Comey’s replacement immediately.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that the FBI director who would replace James Comey, “must be strong and independent.”
Feinstein said in a statement that Trump called her Tuesday afternoon to tell her that Comey was being removed from the top FBI job. When Trump announces a replacement, the nomination would be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee.
On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported there were errors in his testimony as Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides, did not forward “hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband’s laptop as Comey recently testified , and never sent anything that was marked classified, according to a person familiar with the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The FBI later sent a letter to Congress correcting the record of Comey’s testimony on Abedin.
Clinton has handed partial blame for her election loss to Comey after he issued a letter to in the closing days of the 2016 election campaign which said the FBI was looking further into the email scandal.
“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but were scared off,” Clinton said at the Women for Women International Conference.
She added: “If the election were on October 27, I’d be your president.”
Trump has been at odds with the U.S. intelligence community since before he was elected and last week he live tweeted as Comey gave his testimony before the Russia probe.
Comey, 56, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013 to a 10-year term. Praised for his independence and integrity, Comey has spent three decades in law enforcement and has been no stranger to controversy.
Before the past months’ controversies, Comey was perhaps best known for a remarkable 2004 standoff with top officials in the George W. Bush administration over a federal domestic surveillance program.
As the deputy attorney general, Comey rushed to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft to physically stop White House officials in their bid to get his ailing boss to reauthorize a secret no-warrant wiretapping program.
Comey described the incident in 2007 testimony to Congress, explaining that he believed the spy program put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was legally questionable.
When he learned that Andrew Card, the president’s chief of staff, and Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel, were heading to Ashcroft’s hospital room despite Ashcroft’s wife’s instructions that there be no visitors, Comey told Congress, Comey beat them there and watched as Ashcroft turned them away.
“That night was probably the most difficult night of my professional life,” Comey said.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters