Senior FBI agent Peter Strzok, a 22-year Bureau veteran, has been unceremoniously fired by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich on charges of exchanging anti-Trump text messages during the 2016 presidential election campaign with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page – his lover at the time.
Calling it a “departure from typical Bureau practice,” Strzok’s attorney Aitan Goelman said in a statement that the decision “contradicts Director [Christopher] Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters.”
Of course, a tweet or two from the president, if not more, was a given, especially when you consider that he was the subject of the exchanges between the fired agent and his former lover.
And tweet he did!
“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction – I just fight back!” – he wrote.
It didn’t take him long to follow it up with another, making it a point to include “Crooked Hillary Clinton” in his attack, as well.
“Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”
Both Strzok and Page were part of the high-profile probe into the then secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of her personal email server for official communication.
The controversy attracted the most extensive media coverage compared to any other topic during the 2016 presidential election campaign, as was revealed in the post-election analyses of media coverage during the time.
The agent and the lawyer also have the distinction of having worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into a possible Russian hand in the 2016 election outcome.
However, when the politically motivated inflammatory texts between the lovers were uncovered in a Justice Department inspector-general probe, Strzok was summarily removed from the Mueller investigation and demoted to a position in human resources.
Details of the report, however, were released later, and although Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation sometime last summer, it became public knowledge only in December 2017, when news of the texts started surfacing in a number of news reports.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” special counsel’s office spokesman Peter Carr said in a December statement.
As for Page, he said that she “completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.”
Strzok’s woes didn’t end with the relegation, though, as Conservatives were having a field day attacking him in a bid to condemn Mueller’s investigations into the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
The FBI, apparently, succumbed to the intense and sustained political pressure and took steps to sack the beleaguered Strzok.
Not known for his subtlety, Trump had been relentless in his accusations of bias against him across the FBI, citing Strzok’s politically charged messages as evidence of a prejudiced investigation that absolved Clinton of any wrongdoing in the email controversy.
Conservatives have welcomed the move, with Trump even calling for the discontinuation of the Mueller probe of the Russian connection, as well as reopening the Clinton email case.
Following his dismissal, Strzok set up a GoFundMe Twitter account, seeking to raise $150,000 to take care of “his legal costs and loss of income.”
He used his newly-created account to lash out at the administration and House Republicans, saying that he was “deeply saddened by the decision” and that he considered it an honor to have been able to serve the country and “work with the fine men and women of the FBI.”
His tweet was accompanied by an image of a statement from his legal representatives, saying that investigations into the matter had failed to prove that Strzok’s personal views influenced his professional obligations, in any way, whatsoever.
— Peter Strzok (@petestrzok) August 13, 2018
Testifying at a Capitol Hill public hearing he tore to shreds the Conservatives’ theory that the purpose of the texts was to derail the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
“In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign,” Strzok said.
“This information had the potential to derail and, quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind,” he said.
By texting Page “we will stop it” – obviously referring to Trump’s victory – he said he was by and large talking from the point of view of the American public and not with malicious intent.
While many of Trump supporters will find that hard to swallow, the fact remains that no conclusive evidence suggesting otherwise has been uncovered.
The inspector general’s report on the Bureau’s handling of the Clinton email investigation also stated that no “documentary or testimonial evidence’ linking Strzok’s political leanings with his investigative decisions were found.
However, one section of the report states, “We further found evidence that in some instances Strzok and Page advocated for more aggressive investigative measures than did others.”
The report also talks about the slow pace of Strzok’s action in 2016, following the discovery of thousands of Clinton’s e-mails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, who happens to be the estranged husband of Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin.
The inspector general had doubts that “Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias,” without providing any substantive evidence to back that line of thinking.