his decision to announce its findings and release “derogatory information” about Clinton.
While Comey has drawn anger from Democrats since he reopened the email investigation, they didn’t buy that justification.
Several Republicans joined them in raising alarms of how it could affect probes into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Under Comey’s leadership, the FBI concluded that President Vladimir Putin approved a multifaceted campaign to tilt the vote in Trump’s favour.
His snap dismissal sparked rare criticism from Republicans and allegations of a cover-up from seething Democrats, who demanded an inquiry.
The high-stakes gambit also prompted comparisons to the illfated firings that sped the collapse of Nixon’s presidency.
Trump’s decision to fire the FBI director is virtually unprecedented — only one director has previously been fired in the bureau’s century-long history.
In a letter, Trump told Comey: “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately. It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
Trump also used the letter to try to distance himself from the scandal over Russia’s involvement in the election.
“I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation,” Trump wrote.
The White House said the search for a new FBI director was to begin right away. FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. Comey, 56, who is popular among rank-and-file agents, was appointed four years ago.
The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Trump had made a “big mistake”.
Unless the administration appoints an independent special prosecutor to probe the Russian meddling, Schumer added, “every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire director Comey was part of a cover-up”.
Trump fired back on Twitter: “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp”.
In one of the strongest statements by Republicans, Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said: “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of director Comey’s termination.
“His dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the committee,” Burr said.
Comey was speaking to agents at the FBI field office in Los Angeles when the news broke.
Television screens in the office began flashing the news, and Comey initially chuckled.
But he finished his speech before heading into an office and did not reappear in the main room. He later left on a plane to return to Washington.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ahead of rare Oval Office talks with Trump.
Lavrov cracked a joke about Comey’s firing, answering questions from reporters by saying: “Was he fired? You’re kidding, you’re kidding!” Agencies