President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday evening was abrupt, but a look back at the president’s recent comments indicate the FBI director’s position had been uncertain for a while.
Comey, whose agency was leading an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia on the hacking and release of documents from Democratic Party campaign officials during the election, was ousted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended his dismissal.
In a memo to Trump, Rosenstein argued that Comey’s position was untenable because of his July announcement that he would not recommend charges against former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
Trump had hit on this fact in recent weeks and publicly chided Comey, even telling Fox Business in April that firing him wasn’t off the table this far into his presidential term.
“No, it’s not too late, but, you know, I have confidence in him,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting.”
Trump used the opportunity to bring up Comey’s handling of the Clinton emails.
“Don’t forget, when Jim Comey came out, he saved Hillary Clinton,” he said. “People don’t realize that. He saved her life, because — I call it Comey won.”
He repeated those sentiments in tweets last week, claiming that Comey had given Clinton a “free pass.”
Comey was confirmed by the Senate in a nearly unanimous vote in July 2013, and was nearly four years into the 10-year term FBI directors usually serve. He is only the second FBI director in history to be formally terminated. William S. Sessions was fired by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
In the wake Comey’s firing, Democrats are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian connections.