OPIOID SERIES:

Trump fires FBI Director Comey

President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, the White House announced Tuesday afternoon.
 
 
“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 lead the bureau,” Trump wrote in a letter to Comey dated Tuesday.
 
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“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” the president wrote.
 
In a statement on Comey's firing released by the White House, Trump called the FBI "one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions," adding, "today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement."
 
The White House said that a search for a new permanent FBI director would "begin immediately."
 
Comey's firing sent ripples across Washington, with many questioning the timing of the dismissal.
 
Several GOP lawmakers voiced support for the former FBI chief and thanked him for his service, while a number of Democrats slammed the decision, arguing the firing showed that the FBI was making headway on its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
 
In March, Comey announced with the authorization of the Justice Department that the bureau was investigating alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
 
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE (R-Ariz.) said he was "disappointed" by Trump's decision, calling Comey "a man of honor and integrity" while reiterating his call for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.
 
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioStudents gather outside White House after walkout to protest gun violence Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE (R-Fla.), who was presiding over the Senate when the announcement was made Tuesday, said while leaving the Senate floor that he was surprised by the firing but said it wouldn't hinder the Russia investigation.

"He wasn't personally conducting the investigation. The FBI staff, with hundreds if not thousands of qualified professionals, committed to our oath, committed to law enforcement on any matter," Rubio said, adding he hadn't seen any of the details of the firing.
 
 
"It's surprising only because I don't think anyone anticipated it; it certainly wasn't something that we speculated about," Rubio said of the firing, adding he didn't think it was "related to any particular investigation."
 
"And even if it were," he added, "the FBI will continue to function."
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week Steyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Trump called her at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday indicating that he was removing Comey and that the FBI "needed a change."

"The next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee," Feinstein said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRepublicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos Grassley: McConnell doesn't control my committee MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate panel, threw his support behind Trump's decision while casting doubt on "the trust and political independent of the FBI" under Comey. Grassley asserted that Comey had "lost" the public's trust and confidence.

“Over the course of the last several months, Director Comey's decisions on controversial matters have prompted concern from across the political spectrum and from career law enforcement experts," Grassley said in a statement.

“The handling of the Clinton email investigation is a clear example of how Comey's decisions have called into question the trust and political independence of the FBI. In my efforts to get answers, the FBI, under Comey's leadership, has been slow or failed to provide information that Comey himself pledged to provide," he continued.

“The FBI Director serves at the pleasure of the president. Under these circumstances, President Trump accepted the recommendation of the Justice Department that the Director lacked the confidence needed to carry out his important duties.” 

–Mike Lillis contributed
 
Updated: 7:27 p.m.