President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday and replaced him with his deputy, Jeff Sessions, the first time a president has fired the head of the bureau since 1945.
Trump said he chose Sessions to replace Comey because he is “a man of honor and integrity” and because he has a proven track record of “keeping his promises.”
Sessions is the second-highest-ranking Justice Department official to be fired by Trump, and he was the top law enforcement official during President Richard Nixon’s administration.
He has served as the U.S. attorney for Alabama, Arizona and California.
Sessions was also the deputy attorney general during the Obama administration, serving as U.N. ambassador.
Trump also fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, for refusing to defend his controversial travel ban and then recused herself from the Russia investigation.
Trump has defended his decision to fire Comey by saying he was not “grasping at straws” and he did not intend to do anything illegal.
“The man’s been a friend to me for a long time, and I’m going to let the American people know who he is,” Trump said.
Trump’s decision to sack Comey came after the FBI announced it had closed an investigation into the Russian election meddling and Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the presidential transition.
“It’s a sad day when a president is willing to dismiss his FBI Director, but it’s not the end of the world,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“As the president himself has repeatedly said, the investigation will continue, and the American public deserves to know exactly what happened and why.”
In a statement, the White House said that while it had “made every effort” to contact Comey before he was fired, the president had not done so and that Comey had never requested any assistance from the FBI or other government agencies during the investigation.
Comey was leading the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 election, and his firing has renewed questions about whether the president has violated the Hatch Act, a 1924 law that bars federal officials from participating in political campaigns.
The Hatch Act is often invoked by Democrats and some Republicans to defend Trump.
The law says it is prohibited for any official to “knowingly participate in a political campaign for a Federal, State or local office.”
It does not explicitly apply to an employee of the executive branch, however, because the president is not the president.
It was unclear whether Trump planned to ask for Comey’s resignation, which could have put him in a conflict of interest.
The Justice Department said Comey’s departure would leave a vacancy at the top of the FBI and the Justice department, which oversees it.
The president, who took office in January, has not commented on Comey’s dismissal.
Comey, who has served in the role for more than a decade, was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013 to be the FBI’s deputy director.
He was appointed by Trump in January 2017.