In a surprising decision, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey.
In a statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the President "terminated and removed" Comey from office "based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions".
In Trump's letter to Comey, the president said, “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”
“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,” he added.
"It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission," Donald Trump further wrote in his letter.
The shock move comes days after Comey testified on Capitol Hill about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and a possible collusion between the country and Trump’s campaign.
Three senior FBI and Department of Justice officials said that they had no warning or advance knowledge of Comey's dismissal.
FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. The 56-year-old Comey, popular among FBI staff, was appointed four years ago.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate who lost out to Donald Trump in 2016 elections, had accused Comey of trashing her chances of becoming US President by revealing an renewed investigation into her email use.
The White House said the search for a new FBI director would begin immediately.
In a statement released by the White House, Trump said: “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.”
Comey had courted controversy during the 2016 presidential polls when he revealed a renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use, which the Democrat claimed had hurt her chances of becoming president.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in his letter to Trump, criticised Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe, including the director’s decision to hold a press conference announcing its findings and releasing “derogatory information” about her.
“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgement that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein said, adding that Comey was wrong to “usurp” the Attorney General’s authority on July 5 last year and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution.
In a separate letter, Sessions said he has concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI, based on his evaluation as well the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General.
“It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions,” Sessions said.
(With agency inputs)