U.S.

Agents contradict President Trump’s assertion that director had lost the support of his own department.

The White House has offered several reasons for the President’s abrupt termination of FBI director James Comey. The President has asserted that he had to terminate Comey because he had lost the support of the 35,000 FBI staffers who worked for him.

That explanation falls apart under scrutiny, say the heads of organizations representing current and retired FBI personnel.

“His support within the rank and file of the FBI is overwhelming,” said Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association. O’Connor, who is currently employed as an FBI special agent, says agents have characterized Comey’s termination as “a gut punch” to the organization.

On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the reasons for the President’s decision to fire Comey in a press briefing. “Most importantly,” she said, “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.”

Some within the FBI disapproved of Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but O’Connor says FBI personnel believed the director always acted in the best interests of the FBI, especially in trying to insulate the bureau from political pressure.

Nancy Savage, executive director of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, said current and retired agents are angry about Comey’s termination and the way it was handled.

“My friends who are on duty have been texting me and they are appalled,” said Savage, who served the FBI as a special agent until her 2011 retirement. “People were upset about losing him and how he was informed. That’s appalling to our membership. He was a well-respected, well-liked director.”

James Comey issued a response to his termination in a note to bureau employees. “I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI director for any reason, or for no reason at all,” he wrote. “I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.”