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President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey on Tuesday, according to the White House.
“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,” Trump said in a letter to Comey dated May 9.
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“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” he wrote.
Trump cited letters from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “recommending” Comey’s dismissal.
Commentators and elected officials were quick to note that the firing comes as the FBI is investigating any Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and any Russian ties to Trump associates.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Comey “should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”
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Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) issued a similar call, describing Trump’s action as “Nixonian.”
And Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said “Trump’s decision to fire Comey…should send a chill down the spine of every American.”
Reuters national security correspondent Jonathan Landay noted on Twitter that the president “now has fired 3 top US enforcement officials: Preet Bahara, Sally Yates and James Comey. Serious questions raised.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s Anthony Romero said the firing “rings serious alarm bells for our system of checks and balances” and “raises questions about the administration’s inappropriate meddling in bureau operations — precisely at a time when the bureau appears to be investigating the President, his advisors, and his campaign for potential collusion with Russian agents in our last election.”
Many called for the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Trump-Russia ties.
“The only question in Washington that matters now is, ‘When will Congress create and fully fund an independent investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election?'” declared Common Cause president Karen Hobart Flynn.
“James Comey’s handling of major investigations involving both presidential candidates has drawn extensive criticism but President Trump has no business firing him while the president, his campaign, and members of his Administration are under investigation for possible collusion in the Russian attacks on the 2016 presidential election,” Flynn said. “That investigation has already focused on numerous current and former Trump confidantes who had contacts with Russian officials during and after the election—including Attorney General Jeff Sessions who recommended Comey’s firing to the President despite his pledge to recuse himself from any Justice Department actions related to the Russian investigation. Congress must take the investigation out of the hands of partisan committees and move it an independent commission now.”
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