Key moments in the career of James Comey, the FBI director fired by President Donald Trump:
Comey was at the center of a dramatic confrontation in 2004 when he rushed to the bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in a darkened hospital room. Comey, serving as acting attorney general while Ashcroft was hospitalized, went there to block senior Bush administration officials who had hoped to make an end run around him by getting Ashcroft’s permission to reauthorize a secret no-warrant wiretapping program. “That night was probably the most difficult night of my professional life,” Comey testified before Congress in 2007
CLINTON EMAILS, PART I
Comey publicly lifted a big legal threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in July 2016 when he announced that he was recommending no criminal charges for her handling of classified material in a private email account. At the same time, Comey leveled scathing criticism at Clinton for her “extremely careless” handling of classified material, giving Republicans ammunition to use against her in the campaign. His announcement was highly unusual: Comey revealed his recommendation on live television from FBI headquarters rather than privately to Justice Department prosecutors, as is normally the case.
CLINTON EMAILS, PART II
Just 11 days before Election Day 2016, Comey dropped what amounted to a political bomb on the Clinton campaign when he announced the FBI was investigating whether new emails involving the Democratic presidential nominee contained classified information. Two days before the election, Comey lifted the cloud when he announced that the new emails had not changed the FBI’s decision that Clinton should not face charges. Critics said Comey never should have made public the renewed review so close to the election. Clinton said last week that she was “on the way to winning” the election before Comey’s announcement about the new email review and the WikiLeaks release of hacked emails.
Comey in March delivered an extraordinary public confirmation that the FBI was investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 election. Comey said the collusion inquiry began last July as part of a broader probe into Russian meddling in American politics. That meant Trump was elected president as his associates remained under investigation for possible connections to Russia, a probe that was unannounced in this case. Comey’s confirmation of the investigation was striking given the FBI’s historic reluctance to discuss its work. But Comey said the intense public interest in the matter made it appropriate to do so. “I can promise you, we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said in Senate testimony.
Comey testified before senators last week that he’d felt “mildly nauseous” to think he might have tipped the election outcome but in hindsight would change nothing about how handled the election-year investigations. Comey offered an impassioned public defense of how he’d handled the cases, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee the FBI must not take into account how its actions might benefit or harm politicians. “I can’t consider for a second whose political futures will be affected and in what way,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves what is the right thing to do and then do that thing.”