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Several Key Moments Led Up To Trump's Dismissal Of FBI Director Comey

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're going to take a step back now and listen to some of the key moments that led up to the dramatic dismissal of FBI Director James Comey yesterday.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We'll start on July 5, 2016. Comey calls a surprise news conference. It was to talk about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JAMES COMEY: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless.

MCEVERS: But he concluded...

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

COMEY: In looking back at our investigations into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.

SIEGEL: Careless but not criminal. The Clinton team was relieved, and Trump kept hitting a favorite theme.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She should be in prison. Let me tell you.

(CHEERING)

SIEGEL: We now know that back in July, the FBI was also starting its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. But that was not yet public.

MCEVERS: For the next few months, it seemed like the dark cloud over Hillary Clinton had lifted. Then on October 28, James Comey dropped a bombshell. New emails had been found. The investigation was back on.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COMEY: I sat there that morning, and I could not see a door labeled no action here.

SIEGEL: Comey in testimony last week described the decision he faced.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COMEY: I could see two doors, and they were both actions. One was labeled speak. The other was labeled conceal.

SIEGEL: At the time, Trump praised that decision to speak.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: And it took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made.

MCEVERS: Two days before the election, Comey said the FBI had reviewed the new evidence, and their recommendation was unchanged - no criminal charges for Clinton. She says Comey's decision to speak about the reopening of the investigation cost her the presidency.

SIEGEL: November 14, President-elect Trump was asked on "60 Minutes" if he wanted James Comey to stay on as FBI director.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

TRUMP: I would certainly like to talk to him and see him. This is a tough time for him. And I would like to talk to him before I answer a question like that.

SIEGEL: FBI Director Comey stayed. Then came a big public hug two days after Trump's inauguration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: He's become more famous than me.

(LAUGHTER)

MCEVERS: On March 20, Comey revealed this during congressional testimony.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COMEY: The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.

MCEVERS: And throughout all this, Comey said he was trying to stay above the political fray.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COMEY: It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.

SIEGEL: But James Comey had been central to major political moments for most of the last year. And until last night, he was the public face of the investigation that has dogged the Trump administration since the election - whether Russia played a role to help Trump win and whether his campaign knew about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF DELICATE STEVE'S "TOMORROW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.