US President Donald Trump has abruptly fired FBI director James Comey in a move Democrats have condemned as politically motivated.
The decision has surprised many, not least of which Mr Comey himself, with reports indicating the director was not aware he had been fired until the dismissal letter was sent to the press.
Here’s how it all unfolded.
What was the reason?
In a letter to Mr Comey, Mr Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr Trump said in the letter dated Tuesday.
The statement appeared to link the sacking with Mr Comey’s investigation into Russian hacking, something which has sparked outrage among Democrats.
But the official reason offered by the White House was Mr Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for classified information.
It released a memorandum from deputy attorney-general Rod J Rosenstein on the dismissal, referring to the Clinton case.
“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,” he said.
“Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
Democrats and experts believe this doesn’t stack up, arguing it is more likely linked to the Russian investigation.
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweets: But does anyone seriously believe @realDonaldTrump fired the top person investigating his ties to Russia because he was unfair to Hillary?
When did the FBI director know?
The announcement appeared to even take Mr Comey by surprise.
A number of US outlets reported Mr Coney was addressing bureau employees in Los Angles when the announcement was made.
Television screens in the background began flashing the news as he was speaking, according to US media.
Mr Comey laughed at the reports, making a joke about it to lighten the mood before he called his office to get confirmation, CNN reports.
However, a short time afterwards Mr Trump’s letter was delivered to FBI Headquarters in Washington.
What do the Republicans and Democrats think?
Democratic leader senator Chuck Schumer warned the President he was making a “big mistake”.
First Pres Trump fired Sally Yates, then Preet Bharara. Now #Comey. Doesn’t seem like an accident. We must have a special prosecutor.
He points out Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from the Russian inquiry, is the man responsible for firing Mr Comey — the man in charge of the inquiry.
Brian Schatz, the US senator from Hawaii, went a step further, tweeting that the country was “in full-fledged constitutional crisis”.
A number of Republicans have also voiced their ire over the announcement, with the Republican head of intel committee saying he was troubled by the timing and reasoning of the termination.
“In my interactions with the director and with the bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our committee,” he said in a statement.
“Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the bureau and the nation.”
What does this mean for the investigation into Russia?
It is uncertain at this stage, although Senator Burr has argued it confuses the investigation.
“I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the committee,” he said.
Republican congressman from Michigan Justin Amash announced he would be looking into establishing an independent commission on Russia in the wake of the news.
A CNN report also claims around the time of the announcement, a grand jury had been convened and had started issuing subpoenas in relation to the FBI’s Russia probe.
Is this Nixonian?
The controversial move has been labelled Nixonian by some Democrat supporters.
Mr Comey’s surprise sacking has been compared to a similar situation that occurred in 1973, when then-president Richard Nixon dismissed Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor appointed to investigate Watergate.
But the Presidential Library of Richard Nixon has moved to distance itself from the matter, tweeting Mr Nixon never fired an FBI director.
FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian