President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday in a surprise move.
"The president has accepted the recommendation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters in a briefing.
Markets reacted negatively, if not forcibly, to the news. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures were down Wednesday morning ahead of market open, while save-haven gold gained. The dollar was up slightly.
The FBI notified Congress earlier Tuesday that during a Capitol Hill hearing last week, Comey had misstated key findings from the agency's probe into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton' private email server.
Comey had said that "hundreds and thousands" of Clinton's emails from her time as U.S. Secretary of State had been forwarded to disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. But the FBI said Tuesday that only a "small number'" actually went to Weiner.
Comey's remarks over the past year about the e-mail investigation made him a controversial figure. Clinton said last week ahead of his testimony that comments he made made shortly before the November presidential election partly cost her the White House.
The now-ousted FBI director said last week he would make the same decision on his handling of the emails, adding that the thought of his actions having some impact on the election made him "mildly nauseous."
In a surprising twist of fate, Comey's handling of Clinton's emails appear to be, at least in part, behind his firing. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter recommending Comey's dismissal on Tuesday, cited the Clinton investigation as cause, including his July 5, 2016 press conference on the matter.
"The FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them," he wrote. "Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also sent a letter recommending Comey be let go and replaced by an "experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the FBI."
Comey was leading an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump gave nod to the investigation in a letter to Comey dated Tuesday.
"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 said.
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