A memo from the US deputy attorney general explained that FBI Director James Comey was fired because the FBI’s reputation and credibility had “suffered substantial damage” after Comey “usurp[ed] the Attorney General’s authority” and announced that an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails should be closed without prosecution.
The White House announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump had fired James Comey on the basis of recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In a memo to Sessions, Rosenstein laid out the reasoning for firing Comey.
Rosenstein said that over the past year, “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage” that has “affected the entire Department of Justice.”
“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 judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein said. “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
He pointed to Comey’s July announcement of the FBI’s view that “no charges are appropriate” in the Justice Department’s investigation into then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.
The deputy attorney general said Comey was “wrong to usurp the attorney general’s authority” by going public with the FBI’s recommendation.
“It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement,” Rosenstein wrote. “At most, the director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”
Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that Lynch’s tarmac meeting with President Bill Clinton in late June caused him to worry that Department of Justice leadership “could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people’s confidence in the justice system.”
Allan Smith contributed to this report.
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