May 9 (UPI) – In a surprise move Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James B. Comey, following a misstep last week and recommendations from top officials at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The White House confirmed Comey’s firing Tuesday afternoon and Trump informed the FBI chief in a letter.

“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.

The president said he acted on “clear” recommendations from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” Trump’s letter stated. “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

The White House said the search to replace Comey, the bureau’s chief since 2013, will begin immediately.

The reason for Comey’s dismissal was not immediately made clear, but it followed the revelation Tuesday that the FBI director made a mistake while testifying in Congress last week — when he falsely testified that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had forward “hundreds of thousands” of emails relevant to the bureau’s investigation to the laptop of her estranged husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner.

The FBI clarified the erroneous testimony in a letter to Congress earlier Tuesday, addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

“Most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices,” the letter read.

The FBI noted the clear distinction between manually forwarding emails and having them uploaded via standard backup processes. The bureau said of nearly 50,000 emails on Weiner’s computer that were pertinent to the Clinton investigation, it found that only two with classified information were forwarded manually by Abedin and 10 were sent via the backup process — a substantial difference from Comey’s claim of “hundreds of thousands.”

All 12 of the emails containing classified material had been previously reviewed by FBI investigators, who ultimately recommended last summer that no charges be filed against Clinton. The inquiry was related to her handling of classified information involving a private email server while she served as former President Barack Obama‘s secretary of state.

The FBI’s letter also said Comey misspoke last week when he testified there were about 2,000 open counterterrorism investigations involving refugees in the United States. The bureau said it only has about 300 open cases.

Comey’s dismissal came at a time of increased scrutiny for the FBI chief, from both sides of the aisle.

Democrats have criticized him for six months over the decision to announce potential new evidence in the Clinton email investigation just 10 days before the U.S. presidential election — an extremely unusual move that violated government guidelines. Democrats, particularly Clinton, have said that decision was a major factor in the party’s electoral loss to Trump on November 8.

Republicans have railed against Comey in recent weeks, as well, particularly for his leadership in the Justice Department investigation into potential links or collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign.



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