President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the leader of a wide-ranging criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s nascent presidency drew comparisons to President Richard M. Nixon’s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which Nixon purged the Justice Department in the middle of the Watergate investigation. Mr. Trump’s move immediately ignited Democratic calls for an independent prosecutor to lead the Russia probe.
Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s controversial handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited from that inquiry. Mr. Trump had also once praised Mr. Comey for being “gutsy” in pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.
“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,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.