Trump fires FBI director James Comey
- Shock firing comes days after Comey's testimony on investigation into Russian election meddling
- New leadership 'essential to restore public trust' - Trump statement
- Search for new director to begin immediately
President Donald Trump on Tuesday abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey in the fallout over Comey's probe of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's emails last year, saying Comey was no longer able to effectively lead the agency.
"It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission," Trump said in a letter to Comey released by the White House.
Trump told Comey in the letter he accepted the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions that "you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."
Comey has been embroiled in controversy surrounding his probe into whether Clinton's use of a private email server while US secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term compromised national security.
He said in July that the case should be closed without prosecution, but then declared - 11 days before the November 8 election - that he had reopened the investigation because of a discovery of a new trove of Clinton-related emails.
It was a decision Democrats believe cost Clinton victory.
The White House released a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about Comey's actions.
"I cannot defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken," Rosenstein wrote.
Rosenstein identified several areas in which he said Comey had erred, saying it was wrong of him to "usurp" then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch's authority by announcing the initial conclusion of the email case on July 5.
Comey "announced his own conclusions about the nation's most sensitive criminal investigation, without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders," Rosenstein wrote.
Comey also "ignored another longstanding principle" by holding a news conference to "release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation."
Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday it made him "mildly nauseous" to think his announcement of the reopening of an investigation into Clinton's emails affected the 2016 presidential election, but he had no regrets and would make the same decision again.
Mr 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 Mr Trump's campaign.
Mr Comey told politicians 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.
- Read more: Here's what FBI director James Comey had to say about Hillary Clinton's emails, Donald Trump and Russia
Mr 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, Mr Comey has spent three decades in law enforcement and has been no stranger to controversy.
Democratic Senators have described the events as "outrageous" and "deeply troubling".
Additional reporting by Press Association