President Donald Trump caught Washington by surprise yesterday by firing James Comey from his position as FBI Director. This is just the second time that an FBI Director has been removed from his position - Bill Clinton sacked William Sessions in 1993.
The move was so unexpected that Comey only learned of his dismissal from reporters. While addressing FBI employees in Los Angeles, the news flash appeared on television screens behind him, with Comey reported to have laughed and said that it was a funny prank. Trump’s letter was delivered to FBI headquarters in Washington shortly after.
As outlined in the letter, Trump made his decision based on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, stating that he agreed Comey was no longer “able to effectively lead the Bureau”.
It was suggested that the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, which Trump benefitted from politically, was part of the rationale.
Democrats were quick to condemn the President and the timing is certainly suspicious. Comey had been leading the FBI’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia – an issue which Trump addressed directly in the letter.
The episode raises the shadow of political interference by a sitting president into an investigation of the White House. Comey was just three years into a 10-year term – an unusually long tenure but one that Congress specifically implemented in order to protect the position from political pressure.
Once again, Trump has blown convention out of the water.
Moon Jae-in has been declared the winner of South Korea’s presidential election. Moon, a liberal and former human rights lawyer from the Democratic Party, won with 41% of the vote and has pledged to be a “president for the people”. He favours engagement with North Korea and has challenged the deployment of a controversial US missile defense system.
Dozens of Conservative MPs could today discover whether or not they willface prosecution for fraud in relation to election expenses during the 2015 general election. The MPs in question have been under investigation by 14 police forces for more than a year and the deadline for the Crown Prosecution Service to make its decision is approaching. If charges are brought, this would allow the Conservative party to change their candidates although the window for finding new candidates would be extremely tight.
Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire will remain closed today as “a mark of respect” following the death of an 11-year-old girl who fell from the Splash Canyon water ride during a school trip yesterday. The child has not been named but is known to have been a pupil at Jameah Girls Academy in Leicester. The Health and Safety Executive is investigating the incident.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
The new business created by the £11 billion merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management will be called Standard Life Aberdeen, however, not all arms of the company will operate under that name. The investment sides of the two entities will become a combined division named Aberdeen Standard Life Investments. There will also be a loss of 800 jobs over the next three years as part of an effort to cut costs and scale the new business.
Shareholders should be given more powers over executive bonuses according to the Institute of Directors (IoD). In the latest of a series of manifesto papers, the IoD has proposed that, if 30% of investors oppose the remuneration report at the annual general meeting, the company should be forced to look again at their pay policy and give investors another vote.
The John Lewis partnership has set aside £36 million pounds after discovering that it breached minimum wage regulations at its department stores and Waitrose grocery chain. In its Annual Report and Accounts, the business stated that it is reviewing payments dating back six years and potentially affecting thousands of staff - both past and present. The retailer said that the problem focused on “pay averaging” which was implemented to “smooth out” pay over a year for staff paid by the hour.
The FTSE 100 closed up 41.35 points at 7,342.21.
Shares in energy firms Centrica and SSE took a hit after Theresa May announced that a proposal to cap energy prices will be included in the Conservative party’s manifesto. They both fell as much as 4% and 2% respectively but recovered slightly to end the day down 1% and 1.2%.
The other ‘Big Six’ firms which will be affected by the plans should Theresa May be returned as prime minister on 8th June are not listed on the London Stock Exchange.
However, energy suppliers not the biggest fallers. Micro Focus International was down 6% after it was revealed that revenues at Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s software business, which it is taking over, had fallen 10%.
Mining firms had a good day. Glencore was up 2% following news that it had commenced the sale process for its Tahmoor coking coal mine.
Anglo American and BHP Billiton were also up.
On the currency markets, the pound was unchanged against the dollar at $1.2944 but gained 0.35% against the euro at 1.1887 euros.
Braemar Shipping Services, Warpaint London
Anglo Pacific Group, Aviva, BAE Systems, Barclays, Permanent TSB Group Holdings, IP Group, ITV, Marshalls, National Express Group, Novae Group, OneSavings Bank, Parity Group, Rentokil Initial, Vesuvius, Wood Group, Worldpay Group
International Economic Announcements
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Import and Export Price Indices (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Writing in The Telegraph, Con Coughlin warns that, if newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron insists on punishing the UK for leaving the EU, the deep levels of co-operation between the British and French militaries could be jeopardised – this would be to the detriment of both sides.
In The Guardian, Rafael Behr calls Theresa May’s Cabinet the weakest and most deferential to Number 10 than any he can recall. He argues that the seeming absence of any dissent is not a model for healthy government and that May needs to hear opinions that differ from her own.
DID YOU KNOW?
David Crane and Marta Kauffman, producers of television sitcom ‘Friends’, originally began developing the show under the title ‘Insomnia Café’. ‘Six of One’ and ‘Friends Like Us’ were also considered before they settled on the final name.
House of Commons
In dissolution. The House will next sit on Monday 19th June.
House of Lords
In dissolution. The House will next sit on Monday 19th June.
Portfolio Questions: Health and Sport
Scottish Labour Debate: Scrap the NHS Pay Cap
First Minister’s Questions
Scottish Government Debate: Keeping Children Safe Online
Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee Motion: Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 – Standing Order Rule Changes