On Tuesday, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, following the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Neither FBI nor Department of Justice officials were aware of Comey's termination before the White House released a statement announcing it Tuesday afternoon, NBC News reports.
Under Comey, the FBI was conducting an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether Trump or any of his associates knowingly colluded with the Russians. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Tuesday characterized Comey's dismissal as "a grotesque abuse of power by the president of the United States," given the fact that Sessions — who recused himself from any investigations of Russian meddling and Trump's campaign due to troubling optics — appears to have directed the dismissal of Comey, who was leading the probe.
"This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies, that when there is an investigation that reaches near the president of the United States — or the leader of a non-democracy — they fire the people who were in charge of the investigation," Toobin said, likening Comey's dismissal to former President Richard Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. "This is not normal. This is not politics as usual," Toobin said, noting Nixon's termination of Cox precipitated his eventual resignation.
Toobin confirmed that the president has the full legal authority to fire an FBI director, but it's only been done once before, when former President Bill Clinton fired William Sessions in 1993. Watch Toobin's full analysis below, or read the letter Trump sent Comey here. Kimberly Alters