President Donald Trump has fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, smack in the middle of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into potential ties between the Trump administration and Russia. But while whomever Trump appoints to take Comey’s place could shut down the Russia probe eventually, Comey’s removal won’t make it skip a beat. According to press secretary Sean Spicer, the decision to terminate Comey had nothing to do with the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties but rather Comey’s handling—including controversial public statements—of the Clinton email case. In a statement, Trump said that he relied on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ guidance that “a fresh start is needed” to restore confidence in the FBI. In a letter to the president, Sessions wrote, “It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions.”
In his own statement, the president said that the FBI is “one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement.” He also dedicated a paragraph to thanking Comey for “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”
It won’t, though, be a reset button for the Russia investigation. At least, not yet.
This move on behalf of the White House brings to an end a truly tumultuous year for Comey, one that began last July when, in an unprecedented move, the FBI director described in granular detail the thinking behind the bureau’s decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for using a private email server. He called Clinton’s actions careless but not criminal, stoking suspicion among Trump supporters that Clinton was being let off easy.