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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

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