President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey—a move that comes as the FBI is probing contacts between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials ahead of last year’s presidential election.
“The president has accepted the recommendation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement, the White House said Trump informed Comey Tuesday that he was “terminated and removed from office.”
It was not immediately clear exactly why Comey was ousted, but the statement quoted the president as saying he wanted “a new beginning” for the FBI.
“The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” Trump said.
Comey, who was appointed FBI director by former President Barack Obama in 2013 to a 10-year term, has come under fire for his handling of both the Trump campaign probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
The White House statement said a search for a replacement for Comey “will begin immediately.”
Word of the firing came just minutes after the FBI sent Congress a letter clarifying testimony Comey gave to a Senate panel last week suggesting that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded thousands of potentially sensitive emails to her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
A top FBI official sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday saying that the bulk of the transfer of data Comey mentioned “occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner.”
Comey also backed away from a claim that Abedin had a “regular practice” of forwarding messages to Weiner for him to print out.
The FBI letter says Abedin “manually forwarded” two email chains containing classified information to Weiner’s account. It does not say how sensitive the information was or whether it was classified at the time it was sent.