US & Canada

James Comey: FBI director went from 'brave' to fired

FBI Director Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trump had previously praised Mr Comey's handling of Mrs Clinton's emails investigation

James Comey has been usually described as a highly-skilled political operator. But his reputation has had seriously blows recently, with his name embroiled in controversy.

The now-former FBI director was dragged into the headlines for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email - an issue that she blamed for her shock election defeat against Donald Trump last November.

His surprising dismissal by Mr Trump, less than halfway into his 10-year term, came after revelations that he gave inaccurate information about the case to Congress, although that was not mentioned as a reason.

Senior Justice Department officials concluded he had violated department procedures by publicly discussing the Clinton investigation.

The president, who had previously praised Mr Comey as brave, said the 56-year-old was "unable" to lead the FBI.

But Mr Comey had also been leading the investigations by the FBI into allegations of Russian interference in favour of Mr Trump in the election - and Democrats say that is the real reason behind the move.

At the highest levels

At first, Mr Comey grabs attention by his height: 6ft 8ins (2.03m). But he has also been highly regarded for his credentials: the New York native has been circulating in political and legal circles at the highest level for three decades.

As US attorney for the South District of New York, he is said to have attracted a following among many ordinary New Yorkers for his determination to go after the wealthy and powerful.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Comey also led the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the election

In 2003, he became deputy attorney general. He was the one who led the prosecution of lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. He also led the high-profile case against Wall Street broker Frank Quattrone.

Mr Comey came further into the spotlight the following year when, as acting attorney general, he revealed a tense showdown with top officials of President George W Bush's administration when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was ill in hospital.

Mr Bush's White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card pressed him in his hospital bed to re-authorise a controversial programme allowing federal agents to eavesdrop on phone conversations without a warrant.

Mr Comey, who was acting as attorney general in Mr Ashcroft's stead, rushed to the hospital and intervened.

Changes were subsequently made to the programme and Mr Comey drew wide praise.

'A man who stands very tall'

After leaving the Bush administration, Mr Comey was general counsel for Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund in the US state of Connecticut. He now lectures at Columbia University law school in New York.

In July 2013, he was nominated as FBI director by President Barack Obama, who described him as "a man who stands up very tall for justice and the rule of law". And in September, he was posted as the seventh director for a 10-year mandate.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Obama during Mr Comey's installation ceremony at the FBI in 2013

At the 2016 presidential election, Mr Comey was centre stage. He made two interventions during the campaign to make pronouncements about the investigation into Mrs Clinton's emails.

He said in July the case should be closed without prosecution, but then declared - 11 days before November's election - that he had reopened the inquiry because of a discovery of a new trove of Clinton-related emails.

During a Senate hearing last week, Mr Comey said that Mrs Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin, had forwarded "hundreds and thousands" of emails, "some of which contain classified information", to her then-husband.

But the FBI later conceded that only two email chains containing classified information were sent by Ms Abedin to her husband for printing.

Hours later, he was fired, but it does not appear - officially - that this row seems to have cost him his job.

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