In Trump’s letter to Comey, the president said “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
The White House said its search for Comey’s successor begins immediately.
Three senior FBI and Department of Justice officials told NBC News that they had no warning or advance knowledge of Comey’s dimissal. Some of the officials that spoke with NBC know Comey personally.
In a Tuesday statement, the press secretary said the president “terminated and removed” Comey from office “based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
Sessions told Trump in a letter that he believes “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.”
In a memorandum titled “Restoring public confidence in the FBI,” Rosenstein said he couldn’t defend Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement,” the deputy attorney general said.
Rosenstein said that the dismissed FBI director compounded the error when he “ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”
The deputy attorney general was referring to Comey’s letter to Congress, which said the FBI was probing an additional batch of emails related to the Clinton investigation. Comey later announced that the FBI had “not changed its conclusions” after reviewing the new cache of emails.
The former Democratic nominee has cited Comey’s letter, coming a little more than a week before the 2016 presidential election, as a contributing factor to her loss.