FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing Friday, even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”

The FBI declined to comment.

The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations — the Russia case and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

But when a Justice Department inspector-general investigation uncovered politically charged messages that Strzok had exchanged with another FBI official, he was relegated to a position in human resources. Conservatives soon made Strzok the face of their attacks against the special-counsel investigation into the president’s campaign, and the FBI took steps to remove Strzok from its ranks.

Conservatives on Monday hailed the move. President Trump used it to suggest the Russia investigation should be dropped and the Clinton case redone.

“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.

Minutes later, he added, “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!”

The reaction among Democrats was more understated. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Strzok’s firing did not undercut Mueller’s probe, which had produced dozens of indictments.

“Sorry, @realDonaldTrump, the #RussiaInvestigation is bigger than one agent (who was at least willing to go under oath).” Swalwell tweeted, citing the president’s Twitter handle.

Bobby Goodlatte, the son of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding” and pointed to a recent congressional hearing at which Strzok testified.

“Thank you for your service sir,” Bobby Goodlatte wrote. “You are a patriot.”

Bobby Goodlatte recently endorsed the underdog Democrat running for his father’s seat.

Strzok’s team launched a GoFundMe page with a lengthy statement to raise money for his “legal costs and lost income” and said on the site that his firing was “apparently driven by political pressure.” The site had raised more than $40,000 by late Monday afternoon.

Because Strzok was a senior-level FBI employee, and because the FBI’s No. 2 official directed his firing, he has few realistic avenues left to get back his job. It was unclear whether he planned to pursue legal action against the bureau.

Strzok’s position in the bureau had been precarious since last summer, when the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the lead agent on his team had been exchanging anti-Trump messages with an FBI lawyer. The next day, Mueller expelled Strzok from the group.

The lawyer, Lisa Page, had also been a part of Mueller’s team, though she left a few weeks earlier and no longer works for the FBI. She and Strzok were having an affair.

Trump has previously derided the pair as “FBI lovers,” and he and his conservative allies have pointed to their conduct in an attempt to discredit the Mueller probe. On Saturday, before the firing was known publicly, Trump tweeted an attack on Strzok, Page, former FBI director James B. Comey and former deputy director Andrew McCabe.

“Will the FBI ever recover it’s once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

Horowitz concluded that Strzok showed a “willingness to take official action” to hurt Trump’s electoral prospects, particularly in a text he sent telling Page “we’ll stop” Trump from being president.

Strzok, who was a deputy assistant director for counterintelligence at the bureau, has apologized for sending the messages and said they reflected personal views that did not affect his work. His attorney has said that had Strzok wanted to prevent Trump’s election, he could have leaked that Trump’s campaign was under investigation for possibly coordinating with Russia — a revelation that might have upended his bid to become president.

At a congressional hearing last month, Strzok sparred with Republican lawmakers who raised questions about his character and even his marriage. He asserted that there was “no evidence of bias in my professional actions” and that his having to testify was “just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

Strzok was escorted out of the FBI building in June and effectively relieved of work responsibilities, though he technically remained an FBI employee as he and his attorney challenged the effort to dismiss him. On July 24, they made a final pitch to Candice M. Will, who leads the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Goelman said Will ultimately decided that Strzok should face a demotion and 60-day suspension and be subjected to a “last chance” agreement. That would have put him on thin ice if he were to commit another offense. But Goelman said Bowdich overruled that decision and ordered Strzok’s termination.

During a June congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said that Strzok had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility — which he referred to as the bureau’s “independent disciplinary arm” — and that officials would “not hesitate to hold people strictly accountable.” Wray promised that process would be “done by the book.”

Strzok is the third high-ranking FBI official involved in the Clinton and Russia investigations to be fired amid an intensely political backdrop. Trump removed Comey as the bureau’s director and said he did so thinking of the Russia case. Attorney General Jeff Sessions later removed Comey’s deputy, McCabe, after the inspector general alleged he lied about a media disclosure related to Clinton.

McCabe — who, unlike Comey, could not be removed at the will of the president — has said his termination was a politically motivated attempt to undermine the Mueller probe. He is facing a criminal investigation by prosecutors in the District of Columbia’s U.S. attorney’s office. McCabe’s attorney wrote Monday of Strzok’s firing: “Another patriot, public servant, and defender of the FBI fired to appease the WH,” using an abbreviation for White House.

It is possible that others could yet face discipline. The inspector general identified five FBI employees, including Strzok and Page, with some connection to the Clinton email case who had exchanged messages expressing hostility toward Trump, support for Clinton or other political views. Each was referred to the FBI for possible violations of the bureau’s code of conduct.

The inspector general’s office said it found no evidence “to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions” in the Clinton case. Its report singled out Strzok, though, for prioritizing the Russia investigation in October 2016 instead of following up on a Clinton-related lead. Strzok’s attorney has disputed that Strzok failed to pursue the Clinton lead aggressively.

[Washington Post]

Trump Praises Strzok Firing: ‘Crooked Hillary Clinton Sham Investigation’ Should Be ‘Redone’

President Donald Trump celebrated the firing of FBI agent Peter Strzoktoday and took the opportunity to bring up both the “Witch Hunt” and the Clinton email investigation.

In his tweets this afternoon, the President questioned whether the Mueller probe will “be dropped” and even suggested the “sham investigation” into Clinton be redone:

[Mediaite]

Trump calls Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘scared stiff and Missing in Action’

President Donald Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “scared stiff and Missing in Action” on Saturday in his latest broadside on Twitter against the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

The attack on the attorney general came as Trump claimed the news media “refuses to report” on meetings held between Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored an opposition research dossier on Trump, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Ohr was demoted from his position in the deputy attorney general’s office after the discovery of certain meetings he held with Steele and the head of the opposition research firm that hired him to compile the dossier, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, CNN reported last year, citing a source familiar with the matter. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS doing research and analysis on Trump, Simpson has disclosed.

“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….,” Trump wrote on Saturday.

[CNN]

Trump Quotes Dubious Claim From Maria Bartiromo’s Show Slamming Russia Investigation

Sitting in for Neil Cavuto Thursday on Fox News, Maria Bartiromo took on a subject that has become a consistent field of coverage for the business anchor: the supposedly corrupted Russia investigation.

And the president was apparently watching.

Bartiromo, during a discussion on special counsel Robert Mueller probe, made the claim that there was “no evidence whatsoever” to support an investigation into collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia.

“[Rep.] Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the Intel committee on the House, has been with me several times telling me there was no evidence whatsoever to launch even an investigation into potential collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians. And so here we are a year and a half later, the special counsel still going on, and we continue to see texts from FBI agents showing this incredible amount of bias.”

Trump quoted from the segment on Twitter Friday morning.

The idea that there is no evidence to support a collusion investigation is simply false. As NBC News’ Ken Delanian lays out here, the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign after Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russians offered him dirt on Hillary Clinton. Further, there is extensive documented contact between various individuals connected with Donald Trump’s campaign, and Russia. To say collusion hasn’t yet been proven is entirely fair. The idea that there’s no evidence to start an investigation is not.

[Mediaite]

Trump Suggests FBI Kept Carter Page’s Russia Ties Secret to ‘Spy’ on His Campaign

President Donald Trump suggested that the FBI may have tried to use Carter Page as “an excuse to SPY” on the Trump campaign, as they did not inform the then-candidate about Page’s ties to Russia.

“’Why didn’t the FBI tell President Trump that they had concerns about Carter Page? Is there a double standard here?’” Trump tweeted on Thursday, quoting comments made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News.

Trump then jumped in with his on commentary on the matter: “They told Senator Diane Feinstein that she had a spy – but not Trump. Is that entrapment or did they just want to use Page as an excuse to SPY?”

Just days before the election in 2016, the FBI filed a surveillance application on Page that said, “The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

Page responded to the allegations by denying his involvement with the Kremlin.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” the former Trump campaign adviser said.

[Mediaite]

Reality

First, Carter Page left the Trump campaign in September 2016, the FBI sought another FISA warrant in October 2016 after Page left.

Second, the FBI informed Trump the Russians were trying to infiltrate his campaign in July 2016.

Trump is a liar.

Trump: People investigating Russia ‘witch hunt’ are ‘totally corrupt’

President Trump said Thursday that everyone involved in the Russia investigation is either corrupt or conflicted, and said it was started through illegal means.

Trump tweeted that the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele is “phony” and said many of those involved who were fired are “lying and dishonest,” possibly alluding to former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

“Stay tuned!” Trump concluded the tweet.

[Washington Examiner]

Trump: Strzok’s testimony ‘a disgrace to our country’

President Trump in an interview broadcast Sunday called the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok “a disgrace to our country.”

“I watched some of the testimony, even though I’m in Europe, of Strzok. And I thought it was a disgrace to our country. I thought it was an absolute disgrace,” Trump told CBS News.

“Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it,” Trump added. “And you know, talking about shutting it down and ‘we, we.’ And he says ‘oh I meant the American people’ all of a sudden you know, he came up with excuses.”

Strzok’s hearing last Thursday quickly devolved into rancorous partisan bickering after he declined to answer questions about special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation.

Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, exchanged text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation when the messages came to light, but Republicans have zeroed in on him as key to uncovering what they allege was systemic FBI bias against Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats, meanwhile, have cast the effort as a politically driven charade.

The controversial FBI agent was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s private email server.

“He was a disgrace to the FBI,” Trump told CBS News. “So when I look at things like that and he led that investigation or whatever you call it. I would say that yeah, I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries.”

[The Hill]

Furious Trump unleashes unhinged tweet against ‘Ex-FBI LAYER Lisa Page’

Lisa Page has ignored a subpoena from Congressional investigators who have abandoned the Russia investigation and pivoted to investigating the FBI instead.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) threatened Page that he would enforce the subpoena, but has yet to do so.

“Ex-FBI LAYER [sic] Lisa Page today defied a House of Representatives issued Subpoena to testify before Congress! Wow, but is anybody really surprised! Together with her lover, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, she worked on the Rigged Witch Hunt, perhaps the most tainted and corrupt case EVER!” Trump ranted.

About an hour later, Trump tweeted out another accusation on what he now calls a “Rigged Witch Hunt,” as opposed to a regular witch hunt he previously called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is unclear if by saying the investigation is rigged Trump believes the investigation should be restarted. That would mean it would continue for many more years.

[Raw Story]

Reality

This was, of course, a complete mis-characterization of Page’s lawyer’s answer to the subpoena. They requested more time to read the documents sent over by Congress, and will testify the following day.

‘We don’t even talk about the uranium’: Trump wildly attacks FBI when asked if he will confront Putin on meddling

President Donald Trump on Sunday deflected blame for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to the FBI.

While speaking to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, Trump was asked if he was going to “mention the meddling” when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

Trump immediately changed the subject: “I would like to see some answers as to why we didn’t take the server, why the FBI didn’t take the server from the DNC.”

“Why didn’t the FBI take it? Look what they did to other people,” the president continued. “Why didn’t they take it? How can the DNC say get out of here. They threw them out of the office.”

Trump went on to complain about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, saying it would find “nothing wrong.” And then he invoked the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“[Y]ou go back, how about the e-mails — deleting 33,000 e-mails?” he asked. “We don’t even have to talk about the uranium and all the different — just tell me, you get a subpoena. And after getting the subpoena from the United States Congress, right? People go to jail for doing it on a civil case. They delete 33,000 e-mails.”

“Before the FBI even walked in, they are walking in and say you have — by the way, keep your laptops and then they even say destroy your laptops or something? In a week or something you can destroy your laptops?” he said.

[Raw Story]

Trump Demands Mueller Team Disclose Any Conflicts of Interest

Donald Trump wants Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to list any conflicts he and members of his team have in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest?” Trump said in a Twitter posting Thursday. “Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report…And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H? How many people will be sent to jail.”

In follow-up post, the president said allies were being “persecuted” and facing charges that are old or unrelated to the election. “What is going on in the FBI & DOJ with Crooked Hillary, the DNC and all of the lies? A disgraceful situation!”

While Trump and supporters often cite how many Democrats are on Mueller’s team, the special counsel is a longtime Republican.

Trump’s latest attacks on Mueller come as the White House announced that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold their first bilateral summit July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, as they try to reverse a downward spiral in relations that’s been exacerbated by findings of Russian election meddling.

The White House and the Kremlin disclosed details of the meeting in simultaneous statements issued a day after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was in Moscow for talks.

Trump has pushed for improving the relationship, inviting Putin to the White House in a March phone call after the Russian leader’s re-election to a fourth term as president. The mere fact of the summit is a boost to Kremlin efforts to ease its international isolation, though officials have played down hopes for any breakthrough.

[Bloomberg]

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