Following the wave of criticism after President Donald Trump fired former FBI director James Comey on Tuesday afternoon, FBI agents were reportedly distraught at the abrupt departure of the head of their agency.
“I’m literally in tears right now. That’s all I have to say,” said one special agent who’s worked with Comey for years, according to a Politico report.
“We just have no idea why this happened. No idea,” added another former top FBI official who also worked with Comey. “No one knew this was coming. Everyone is just shocked that this happened.”
Although Trump’s dismissal letter cited Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as the determining factor of his firing, several FBI agents were reportedly suspicious of the timing because of the bureau’s active investigation into Trump’s campaign. The FBI is currently investigating whether Trump campaign officials had colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.
“Everyone is asking, ‘Why now? What is the reason for doing it now,'” asked one of the officials in Politico’s report. “If this had happened immediately after the election, that would be one thing. Everyone was thinking it may happen then. But now? People keep asking if it’s because of Russia.”
One senior official from the FBI’s headquarters in Washington D.C. said that their agency was not answering calls, and instead, routing all questions to the Department of Justice. “I got nothing for you. Sorry,” the official said. “We were caught totally off-guard.”
Comey was also reportedly caught off-guard. According to a New York Times report, he found out he was dismissed when news about it splashed across television screens at the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday evening, former Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a motivational message to officials at the FBI and the Justice Department on Twitter: “To the career men and women at DOJ/FBI: you know what the job entails and how to do it. Be strong and unafraid. Duty. Honor. Country.”
Comey served three years of his 10-year term as the head of the FBI. He would be the second director to be fired from the bureau after President Bill Clinton fired William Sessions during an ethics investigation in 1993.