James Comey found out he'd been fired Tuesday as TV networks broke with the news, and he did not take it seriously at first.
The FBI director was speaking to agents at their bureau office in Los Angeles, oblivious to his firing until TVs playing in the background blared the news.
Comey reportedly laughed because he thought it was a prank.
But back in the nation’s capital, President Trump's longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, a former NYPD officer, was hand-delivering Comey's official termination letter to FBI headquarters.
“You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately," the president wrote to Comey in a letter released Tuesday evening by the White House. “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."
Comey's SUV was given a police escort heading to LAX for his flight back to D.C. Comey shook hands with members of the LAPD before boarding his plane.
The White House claims Comey was fired because he mishandled the investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Many believe the real reason was Trump's fury over the FBI’s probe into possible collusion between the Russians and the president's election campaign.
Comey's firing comes as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the White House.
Guardian world affairs editor Julian Borger was in the room when Lavrov was told about the news and tweeted that the secretary of state was full of “sarcasm” and “disdain” in his reaction.
Lavrov on being asked about Comey firing: "Was he fired? You're kidding. You're kidding."— Julian Borger (@julianborger) May 10, 2017
You had to be there to get the full measure of sarcasm and disdain in these comments https://t.co/etCKpa90E2— Julian Borger (@julianborger) May 10, 2017
Trump was also said to be livid about this moment last week when Comey testified before congress about the Hillary Clinton email probe.
“It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,” Comey said during last week’s testimony.
Trump reportedly believed there would be bipartisan support for canning Comey, but the decision has instead fueled a firestorm.
“This is Nixonian,” said Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, referring to President Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" on Oct. 20, 1973, in which he fired Watergate independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, prompting the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.
New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said he had told Trump, “You’re making a very big mistake” during a Tuesday afternoon phone call.
"While the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President's decision to remove James Comey," Republican Sen. John McCain said.
Reportedly stunned by the blowback, Trump ordered his top aides to make his case.
Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN and said Comey’s firing “has nothing to do with Russia.”
“President Trump wants an FBI director who is impartial, who's not politicized and who has the confidence and trust of people in the bureau, of Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, of the attorney general, of the deputy attorney general who oversees the FBI director and of the President of the United States," Conway said. "[Comey] had lost that."
Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared on Fox News.
"The president made [a] swift and decisive action," she said.
Sean Spicer also did damage control on Lou Dobbs Tonight, saying: "There was clearly a loss of confidence in director Comey by the men and women who so ably serve the FBI."
Trump was awake at 4:27 a.m. Wednesday morning as he took to Twitter to say: "Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!”
Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017