Former FBI Director James Comey reported learned he had been fired by President Donald Trump from a TV report while he wasin the Los Angeles field office talking to agents – and he thought it was a joke.
“He was caught flat-footed,” an FBI source told The Los Angeles Times.
According to The New York Times, Comey did not immediately believe the news and even laughed in response, thinking the report was a prank. He was not in Washington, D.C., to receive the letter from Trump, which was delivered to FBI headquarters shortly after.
Comey was in Los Angeles for a speaking engagement at an FBI recruiting event, but he canceled the appearance in wake of the news, The Los Angeles Times reports. He was filmed boarding a plane at Los Angeles International Airport headed for Washington, D.C., around 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
Politicians, commentators and celebrities alike reacted with shock and outrage over Trump’s sudden firing of the FBI director, and the president has already responded on Twitter. He called out Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who told Trump during a news conference on Tuesday, “You’re making a very big mistake.”
Trump responded, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant,” adding the hashtag #DrainTheSwamp.
“Chuck Schumer Says He’s Lost Confidence in James Comey,” was the top headline on the White House press pool listing, linking to a November 2016 article on The Huffington Post.
This is only the second time in American history that an FBI Director has been fired by a sitting president. In 1993, Bill Clinton fired William Sessions following allegations from the Department of Justice that he had abused his power in office.
“Today President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement. The decision was based on recommendations from the top ranking officials in the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.