WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the White House said Tuesday.
Comey was supervising an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. His firing is a stunning development in Trump’s nascent presidency.
Comey learned that he had been fired while he was addressing a group of FBI employees in Los Angeles. While Comey spoke, television screens in the background began flashing the news. Shortly after, a letter was delivered to FBI headquarters in Washington.
A White House official told the Associated Press that Trump’s former bodyguard and director of Oval Office operations, Keith Schiller, hand-delivered the termination letter to the FBI.
Video of Schiller outside FBI headquarters was aired by CNN. Comey was traveling to an event in Los Angeles at the time, according to the Associated Press.
Officials at the FBI said they learned through news reports of Comey’s dismissal, which Trump described as effective immediately. The president has the authority to fire the FBI director for any reason.
The abrupt firing raised questions over whether Trump was trying to influence the Russia investigation. But he said he was following recommendations from the Justice Department, which criticized how Comey concluded the investigation into Clinton.
“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 Tuesday.
Under the FBI’s normal rules of succession, Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, a career FBI officer, becomes acting director. The White House said the search for a new director will begin immediately.