(AP) - President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, ousting the nation's top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation by the agency into whether Trump's campaign had ties to Russia's election meddling.
In a statement, Trump says Comey's firing "will mark a new beginning" for the FBI. The White House says the search for a new FBI director will begin immediately.
Comey's firing comes days after he testified on Capitol Hill about the FBI's investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible connections between Russia and Trump's campaign.
In a statement from The White House, Trump acted based on the recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"The FBI is one of our Nation's most cherished and respected institutions," Trump said in a statement. "And today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement."
A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately, the White House statement said.
The letter from Trump to Comey was released with the President saying: "You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.
"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."
The White House made the stunning announcement shortly after the FBI corrected a sentence in Comey's sworn testimony on Capitol Hill last week. Comey told lawmakers that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, had sent "hundreds and thousands" of emails to her husband's laptop, including some with classified information.
On Tuesday, the FBI said in a two-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that only "a small number" of the thousands of emails found on the laptop had been forwarded there while most had simply been backed up from electronic devices. Most of the email chains on the laptop containing classified information were not the result of forwarding, the FBI said.
Comey, 56, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013 to a 10-year term. Praised for his independence and integrity, Comey has spent three decades in law enforcement and has been no stranger to controversy.
Before the past months' controversies, Comey was perhaps best known for a remarkable 2004 standoff with top officials in the George W. Bush administration over a federal domestic surveillance program.
As the deputy attorney general, Comey rushed to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft to physically stop White House officials in their bid to get his ailing boss to reauthorize a secret no-warrant wiretapping program.
Comey described the incident in 2007 testimony to Congress, explaining that he believed the spy program put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was legally questionable.
When he learned that Andrew Card, the president's chief of staff, and Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel, were heading to Ashcroft's hospital room despite Ashcroft's wife's instructions that there be no visitors, Comey told Congress, Comey beat them there and watched as Ashcroft turned them away.
"That night was probably the most difficult night of my professional life," Comey said.
Democrats are insisting on an independent prosecutor to investigate possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia following FBI Director James Comey's firing.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California tweets: "I've said it before and will again -- we must have a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI's Russia investigation. This cannot wait."
Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said "our democracy is in danger," and he pressed Speaker Paul Ryan to appoint a bipartisan commission to investigate the Trump-Russia relationship.
Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, stood on the Senate floor and said he would await word from the White House on whether the investigation will continue.
Said Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.
President Donald Trump called at least two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee minutes before the White House announced the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California both said they received calls from Trump. Graham is heading the panel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Feinstein is the top Democrat on the committee.
Neither senator criticized the decision. Graham was supportive, saying that "given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well."
Feinstein said Trump told her the FBI needed a change, and that the next director "must be strong and independent."