James Comey: FBI director 'thought news reports of his sacking were a prank'

Donald Trump tells bureau chief 'it is essential we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust'

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The Independent US

James Comey initially thought TV reports of his sacking were a prank and laughed them off, it has been claimed.

A New York Times report said that while addressing FBI employees in Los Angeles the former director laughed when he saw a news flash and told the workers he thought it a "fairly funny" prank.

But his staff then took him aside and he confirmed he had been fired, the paper said.

A number of media reports on Tuesday night had suggested it was through TV news that Mr Comey learned he had been sensationally removed from office by President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump, in a letter hand-delivered to FBI headquarters in Washington DC, said he believed Mr Comey was "not able to effectively lead the bureau".

"It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission," Mr Trump told him.

One FBI official said that Mr Comey was "surprised, really surprised" and was "caught flat-footed", when he learned the news.

Mr Comey had been leading the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election as well as claims of ties between Mr Trump's associates and the Kremlin.

He had also led the probe into the email practices of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who blamed him in part for her defeat. Mr Comey made public statements about the investigation's status weeks before the poll and it was his handling of that case that fuelled his sacking, according to the White House.

Six days before firing him, Mr Trump tweeted that "FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!

"The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?"

Keith Ellison, the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, claimed that "we are witnessing a constitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes" while senior Republican senator John McCain said he was "disappointed in the president's decision".

Mr McCain said the firing strengthened the case "for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election," the New York Times reported.

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