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James Comey, FBI director, fired

Comey fired
FBI Director James Comey fired 15:15

President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey.  

"I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Mr. Trump said in a letter to Comey released Tuesday. "I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately."

Why Trump fired Comey -- and who might replace him 05:39

"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," the president continued. "It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."

The dismissal comes as the FBI is investigating any Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and any Russian ties to Mr. Trump associates. Comey had most recently come under fire for misstating how many sensitive emails Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, forwarded to her husband, Anthony Weiner. 

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe will become acting FBI director while the search for a new director begins, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Comey was meeting with agents and staff at the FBI complex in Los Angeles when he was fired. He was scheduled to speak tonight at a recruiting event for the FBI. Mr. Trump's longtime body man, Keith Schiller, dropped off the letters notifying Comey of his firing by hand this afternoon at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., a White House official confirmed. Comey boarded a plane a little before 9 p.m. ET presumably destined for the East Coast.

Letter from President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey

McCabe was called to a meeting at 5:30 p.m. and appointed acting director 15 minutes before the White House announced Comey's firing at 5:45 p.m. U.S. officials told CBS News that McCabe hastily arranged a video conference with the FBI's 56 field offices, held at about 8 p.m.

Why was James Comey fired? 

The White House released several documents after Comey's firing, including the letter Mr. Trump informing Comey of his termination, the memo from Sessions recommending Comey's dismissal to the president, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's memo to Sessions on Comey. 

"The Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and who sets the right example for our law enforcement officials and others in the Department," Sessions wrote to the president. "Therefore, I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey, Jr., and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the FBI.

It was the strongly worded memo written by Rosenstein to Sessions that outlined Comey's missteps and laid out the argument for his removal.

"The current FBI Director is an articulate and persuasive speaker about leadership and the immutable principles of the Department of Justice," Rosenstein wrote. "He deserves our appreciation for his public service. As you and I have discussed, however, 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. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives."

White House: Comey "politicized" the role of FBI Director, leading to firing 05:38

Rosenstein continued to expand his case for Comey's removal, adding a succession of bad decisions on Comey's part in handling the Clinton email case so publicly.

"The director was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution," Rosenstein continued. "It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement. 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."

Rosenstein also included opinions from multiple former attorneys general and deputy attorneys general baffled at Comey for discussing the Clinton email case without any indictments.

James Comey's firing: A timeline 09:53

"The way the director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong," Rosenstein wrote. "As a result, 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. Having refused to admit his errors, the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the search for a new FBI director will begin immediately.

"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," Spicer said in a statement.

CBS News' Jacqueline Alemany and Andy Triay contributed to this report. 

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