Trump fires FBI director James Comey amid ongoing Russia probe

Comey was investigating Trump's team and possible links to Russia.

Is Russia using hacking and misinformation to disrupt Western nations?

US President Trump has suddenly fired FBI Director James Comey amid the agency's investigation into the new president's team and potential links to Russia.

The dismissal took place as Comey led an inquiry as to whether the Russian Kremlin's state-sponsored hacking team had managed to swing the US election in President Trump's favor -- and how deeply potential corruption has taken root.

Last month, the former director confirmed the existence of the investigation, and while Comey would not confirm or deny whether the new president himself is also part of the probe, he did say in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that Trump's team and associates are being investigated, and that it was "impossible to say" how long the inquiry would take.

The general consensus of law enforcement, the FBI, and the conclusion of the CIA's own investigations suggest Russia was involved in election scheming, something Russian officials have dismissed as "amusing rubbish."

Recommendations to remove Comey from his post were outlined in a letter to President Trump from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which claimed that a "fresh start" is needed at the top of the intelligence agency.

Sessions said that he could not defend Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation and by talking about it to the press and closing the case without a trial, Comey's decision represented a "textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do."

Interesting, really, as Comey's decision to reopen the case during the campaign trail only assisted Trump's bid for the presidency and during the campaign, Trump said that the former FBI chief "did the right thing."

Upon these recommendations, Trump showed Comey the door.

In a statement to the media (.PDF), the US president 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."

"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," Trump said in a letter to Comey dated Tuesday.

The timing and rapid firing are important. Not only is this likely to place a number of other FBI investigations into disarray, but as noted by CBS News, the list for Comey's potential replacement is rather short -- and at short notice.

Sessions will be appointing the new successor to the post. One candidate is the FBI's Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, who is respected in the law enforcement community but has also been linked to the Clinton email server scandal as his wife accepted donations from a democratic operative during her campaign in Virginia.

This will not be the last we hear of this story. Even former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has hit out at the dismissal, saying that "every American should condemn such political interference in the Bureau's work."


Online rights and privacy body the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a statement that firing the FBI chief was "deeply concerning."

The EFF said that while it "disagreed with the director on many issues, including his consistent push for backdoors into our electronic communications and devices and a general weakening of encryption [...] we are deeply troubled about Director Comey's termination and what it says about the independence of the office and its ability to conduct fair investigations."

See also: Snowden praises open source for protecting privacy

Things may not be going so well for the FBI, but despite the agency's battle against tech vendors when it comes to end-to-end encryption, the US Senate, at least, has decided to embrace encryption to a degree.

Last week, the Senate began converting its web domain -- including 100 elected senator websites -- over to the encrypted HTTPS channel. While we are seeing HTTPS being enabled by default more and more, it was once only really in view when users visited online banks and retailers.