President Donald Trump has decided to fire FBI Director James Comey over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the administration says.
The White House shocked Washington by announcing that James Comey “has been terminated and removed from office”.
However, Democrats said James Comey was fired because the FBI was investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The move came as it emerged James Comey gave inaccurate information about Hillary Clinton’s emails to Congress last week.
James Comey, 56, was addressing FBI agents in Los Angeles when, according to media, he learned he had just been fired when he saw the news on TV.
He reportedly laughed, thinking it was a prank.
James Comey was three-and-a-half years into his 10-year term as FBI director.
The White House said the search for a successor would begin immediately. It is only the second time the head of the FBI has been fired.
President Trump wrote in a letter to James Comey that he agreed with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recommendation that “you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau”.
Jeff Sessions said the department of justice was “committed to a high level of discipline, integrity, and the rule of law”, and “a fresh start is needed”.
Many have expressed surprise that James Comey should be fired for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for sensitive government business, given that Donald Trump once praised the FBI director’s conduct in the matter.
In the final days of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump told a rally it “took guts” for James Comey to reopen the inquiry.
“What he did brought back his reputation,” Donald Trump said.
However, on May 9, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he “cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgement that he was mistaken”.
“Almost everyone agrees the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
Democrats swiftly suggested that President Trump had fired James Comey to influence the FBI inquiry into whether members of the Trump election campaign colluded with Russia.
The House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees are looking into the same allegations.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference on May 9: “Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?
“This does not seem to be a coincidence.”
President Trump responded on Twitter that Chuck Schumer had recently expressed his lack of confidence in the FBI chief.
Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted the Russia allegations are “fake news”.