The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

From Clinton emails to alleged Russian meddling in election: The events leading up to Comey’s firing

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker explains how and why FBI Director James Comey was fired. (Video: Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey on Tuesday. From the Clinton email investigation to the Trump-Russia probe, these are all of the major dates concerning Comey:

July 5, 2016 Comey says the FBI will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, but he calls Clinton and her staff “extremely careless” in handling classified material.

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said.

July 7 Comey is grilled by lawmakers for five hours during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Clinton email investigation. Comey stands by his decision to not charge Clinton.

“As a nonlawyer, as a non-investigator, it would appear to me you have got a hell of a case,” an exasperated Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) told Comey.

“I’m telling you we don’t, and I hope people take the time to understand why,” Comey responded.

FBI Director James Comey testified on July 7 at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Aug. 16 — In a letter released by lawmakers, the FBI defends the decision not to charge Clinton.

“As the Director stated, the FBI did find evidence that Secretary Clinton and her colleagues were extremely careless in their handling of certain, very sensitive, highly classified information,” FBI acting Assistant Director Jason V. Herring wrote. “The Director did not equate ‘extreme carelessness’ with the legal standard of ‘gross negligence’ that is required by the statute. In this case, the FBI assessed that the facts did not support a recommendation to prosecute her or others within the scope of the investigation for gross negligence.”

Sept. 2 — The FBI releases Clinton email investigation documents.

Sept. 7 — In a memo to FBI employees, Comey says the decision not to charge Clinton was “not a cliff-hanger,” and that “despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case.” The letter incites fury among Republican lawmakers.

Sept. 28 — Comey says he refuses to reopen the investigation into Clinton in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Since you announced that there would be no prosecution of Secretary Clinton in July, there have been several very material issues that are troubling, and would those not require a reopening of the investigation to solve those issues?” Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) asked.

“I haven’t seen anything that would come near to that kind of situation,” Comey responded.

Oct. 3 — Law enforcement officials seize a laptop, phone and tablet belonging to Anthony Weiner, who was under investigation for alleged inappropriate communications with a minor. They discover the laptop contained emails from Clinton and her aide, Huma Abedin, who is Weiner's spouse.

Oct. 7 — The Obama administration officially accuses Russia of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Oct. 13 — At a campaign event in West Palm Beach, Fla., Trump says of Comey: “He stated many things, but it’s far more and he knows that. And yet, after reading all of these items, where she’s so guilty, he let her off the hook.”

Oct. 27 — Comey receives a full briefing by agents in his office about the findings on Weiner’s laptop.

Oct. 28 — Comey sends a letter to congressional leaders informing them of the existence of emails pertinent to the Clinton investigation.

The Fix's Aaron Blake breaks down reactions to the FBI's announcement and explains why it matters to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: BRIAN SNYDER/The Washington Post)

Oct. 31 — “It took a lot of guts. I really disagreed with him. I was not his fan. But I’ll tell you what he did, he brought back his reputation,” Trump says of Comey's decision.

Nov. 6 — Comey writes that investigators had worked “around the clock” to review all the emails found on a device used by Weiner. In the end, the FBI concluded that it found nothing to alter its original opinion that it would seek no charges against Clinton.

Nov. 9 — Trump is elected president.

Early January 2017 — President-elect Trump is informed by U.S. intelligence agency leaders that Russia may possess compromising information about him.

Jan. 10 — Comey appears with National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee to talk about Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election. Comey refuses to confirm that the FBI is looking into the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

Jan. 13 — Democrats, after a briefing with Comey, accuse him of stonewalling about whether the FBI is investigating ties between Trump associates and Russia. On the same day, the Senate Intelligence Committee announces it will look into Russian interference in the election.

Jan. 18 — Trump informs Comey that it is his intention to keep him on as FBI director.

Jan. 22 — Trump greets Comey at the White House, two days after the inauguration. “He’s become more famous than me,” Trump said to people in the room.

Feb. 24 — The FBI rejects requests from the Trump administration to knock down news reports concerning communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.

March 1 — The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during his confirmation hearings, did not disclose contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States.

March 2 — Sessions recuses himself from investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign, including that of any Russian interference in the electoral process.

March 5 — Comey asks the Justice Department to refute Trump’s tweet claiming Trump Tower was wiretapped during the election.

March 9 — Comey meets with members of Congress concerning Trump’s wiretapping tweet.

March 20 — Comey confirms that the FBI is investigating any links between the Trump election campaign and the Russian government.

March 20 — Comey personally refutes Trump’s wiretapping allegations.

Late March/early April — The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) cancels all other scheduled testimony on Russia and insists that Comey come back to the Hill for a closed-door briefing. Nunes later recuses himself from the Russia investigation before that meeting is ever scheduled.

April 12 — Trump is asked on Fox Business Network about his decision to keep Comey on:

Maria Bartiromo: … was it a mistake not to ask Jim Comey to step down from the FBI at the outside of your presidency, is it too late now to ask him to step down?

Trump: No, it’s not too late, but, you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting.

But we have to just — look, I have so many people that want to come in to this administration, they’re so excited about this administration and what’s happening — bankers, law enforcement — everybody wants to come into this administration. Don’t forget, when Jim Comey came out, he saved Hillary Clinton, people don’t realize that. He saved her life because — I call it “Comey won.” And I joke about it a little bit. When he was reading those charges, she was guilty on every charge and then he said, “She was essentially okay.”

April 25 — Senate confirms Rod J. Rosenstein as deputy attorney general in a 94-to-6 vote.

May 2 — Trump tweets: “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?

Here’s what we know so far about Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests

May 3 — Comey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his decision to announce the reopening of the investigation into Clinton and her emails.

“Lordy, has this been difficult,” Comey said of the fallout from his Clinton decision. Comey also said, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.”

Comey alleges in the hearing that Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information.”

FBI Director James Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3. Here are key moments from that hearing. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

May 4 — Comey briefs members of the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors about the Russia probe, now being led by Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.).

May 8 — ProPublica publishes a report stating that Comey exaggerated the number of emails Abedin forwarded to Weiner. In a news conference later in the week, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with Sessions and Rosenstein in the Oval Office to discuss his concerns about Comey.

May 9 — FBI sends a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee clarifying that Comey misspoke about the number of emails forwarded.

Video: Trump fires FBI Director Comey. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

May 9 — Trump fires Comey, citing recommendations from Sessions and Rosenstein.

May 10 — The Post reports that shortly before he was fired by Trump, Comey requested more money and resources from the Justice Department for the bureau’s investigation into Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Karoun Demirijan and Kevin Uhrmacher contributed to this report.

Listen below to reporter Matt Zapotosky explain what we know so far, on the "Can He Do That?" podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.