FBI agent Peter Strzok was fired over texts he sent that demonstrated a political bias against Donald Trump while he was working on the investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russian election interference. The termination was ordered on Friday, according Strzok’s attorney Aitan Goelman.
Goelman took issue with the decision, saying that the FBI official who normally handles such matters decided on a 60-day suspension for Strzok and a lower position. Nevertheless, Deputy Director David L. Bowdich decided to fire Strzok anyway.
“The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practice, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters,” Goelman said in a statement to Law&Crime. He claimed, “the decision to terminate was taken in response to political pressure.”
Strzok’s firing came after a Justice Department Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of matters surrounding the 2016 election, particularly the Hillary Clinton email investigation, that Strzok worked on. Text messages between him and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom Strzok had an affair, showed that the pair expressed anti-Trump sentiment and a favorable position towards Clinton. Strzok also worked on the investigation of the Trump campaign, but when Special Counsel Robert Mueller learned of the texts, he dismissed Strzok from the probe.
The Inspector General’s report noted that the nature of Strzok’s messages, which referred to stopping Trump, indicated a possible willingness to act on his political bias while carrying out his official duties. Strzok was questioned about this in a congressional hearing that went completely off the rails when he refused to answer questions. In June, it was reported that Strzok was escorted out of the FBI building.
On June 24, Strzok’s case went before Candice M. Will, head of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Will called for the suspension and demotion, as well as a “last chance agreement,” which would put Strzok at risk if he were to get in any other trouble. Ultimately, Bowdich decided on termination instead.
“This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans. 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,” Goelman said. ” It is a decision that produces only one winner – those who seek to harm our country and weaken our democracy.”
The FBI said in a statement to Law&Crime:
Mr. Strzok was subject to the standard FBI review and disciplinary process after conduct highlighted in the IG report was referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). OPR reviewed the investigative materials, as well as the written and oral responses of Mr. Strzok and his counsel, and issued OPR’s decision. The Deputy Director, as the senior career FBI official, has the delegated authority to review and modify any disciplinary findings and/or penalty as deemed necessary in the best interest of the FBI.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
Note: This article has been updated.