- Peter Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the FBI, has been fired over the text messages he exchanged with an FBI lawyer that criticised President Donald Trump.
- He was terminated by the FBI’s deputy director, David Bowdich, who overturned a previous decision that demoted and suspended Strzok but let him stay at the bureau.
- Strzok has been under heavy scrutiny for bashing Trump privately while investigating the Trump campaign.
Peter Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the FBI, has been fired over the text messages that have subjected him and the bureau to national scrutiny, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
A lawyer for Strzok told The Post that FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich terminated Strzok on Friday, overturning a previous decision from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility. That move let Strzok stay at the bureau’s Washington office but punished him with a 60-day suspension and a demotion from deputy assistant director for counterintelligence to a post in human resources.
Strzok has drawn heavy criticism from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, and sat for two exhaustive congressional hearings this summer over text messages critical of Trump he exchanged with Lisa Page, then an FBI attorney with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
Strzok first came into the spotlight last summer, when he was removed from his position working on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after the anti-Trump text messages were uncovered.
Among the messages that drew the most ire from Republicans were an August 8, 2016, exchange in which Page questioned whether Trump could be elected president, to which Strzok responded: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Strzok later described the comment as an “off-the-cuff” remark written in the context of Trump insulting two Gold Star parents who spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Trump has sought to use Strzok and Page’s text exchanges to discredit the Mueller investigation and the FBI in general, frequently calling for investigations into “the FBI lovers” and other officials, including former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The president tweeted his approval of the news on Monday. “Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation,” Trump wrote. “It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”
Strzok has publicly apologised for the messages, contending that he was expressing personal opinions to a friend that did not bias his work. Strzok was also part of the FBI team that investigated Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.
This may not be the end of the Strzok story
Strzok may continue to be a source of controversy for the bureau even after his firing.
“A lengthy investigation and multiple rounds of Congressional testimony failed to produce a shred of evidence that Special Agent Strzok’s personal views ever affected his work,” he wrote. “The decision to terminate was taken in response to political pressure, and to punish Special Agent Strzok for political speech protected by the First Amendment, not on a fair and independent examination of the facts.”
Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, predicted in a tweet that Bowdich was “absolutely going to get dragged through oversight hearings at some point demanding to know why he overruled FBI OPR with respect to Strzok.”
“That’s highly unusual,” he wrote. “Maybe legal but definitely not standard practice.”
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