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 threatens ‘to get involved’ in manic conspiracy meltdown over ongoing FBI investigation

Out of nowhere — and possibly as a distraction to some upcoming news — President Donald Trump attacked the FBI on Saturday morning by demanding they turn over files on [Rformer FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to outside conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch.

Once again alleging a conspiracy, Trump tweeted, “Why isn’t the FBI giving Andrew McCabe text massages [sic] to Judicial Watch or appropriate governmental authorities. FBI said they won’t give up even one (I may have to get involved, DO NOT DESTROY). What are they hiding? McCabe wife took big campaign dollars from Hillary people.”

He later added, “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? So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

You can see screenshots of the original tweets below which were deleted to correct the usual Trump typos:

[Raw Story]

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 tries to spin Justice Department documents outlining Carter Page’s Russia contacts

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to try and hit back against the Justice Department’s release of documents outlining Carter Page’s contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, the Justice Department released a warrant application the FBI had made to get permission to conduct surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, made in October 2016, alleged that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

The non-redacted portions of the 400-page FISA document make serious claims about Page’s ties to the Russian government. The Justice Department alleges in the documents that the former adviser “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.”

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant says. After a redacted line, the document then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Trump responded to the documents Sunday morning, relying on his claim of “witch hunt” to describe the investigation into his campaign.

“As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts,” Trump tweeted about the FISA documents Sunday. “Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump hit back against the Steele dossier, which alleges the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and that the Russians have compromising information on the now-president. Trump quoted Fox News as saying, “Source #1 [for the FISA warrant] was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign …”

The president then tied the FISA warrant to the outcry sparked by his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming he “had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!”

Page himself has denied the allegations, describing the FISA application as “spin” and a “complete joke” in an interview Sunday on CNN.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Page alleged Sunday.

The heavily redacted FISA documents, which enabled the government to surveil Page, were released Saturday after news organizations including the New York Times and USA Today filed lawsuits to obtain them through the Freedom of Information Act. Its release marks the first time a FISA application for surveillance has been released, the Washington Post noted, and such documents are considered to be highly classified.

The application previously made waves in February, as Republicans alleged in a memo that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain the FISA warrant — which Democrats then rebutted in a separate report.

Republicans have previously pointed to the warrant’s reliance on the Steele dossier — which was initially commissioned by a firm that had been contracted by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — as evidence that the warrant was improperly granted, due to the dossier’s alleged bias. An initial Republican memo about the FISA warrant also claimed that the dossier’s origins were not mentioned in the warrant.

The now-released document, however, does disclose that the “U.S. person” who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” and added that the FBI believes Steele’s reporting “to be credible.” Some details of the Steele dossier have been corroborated, although the document’s most salacious claims remain unverified.

David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security and associate deputy attorney general, wrote in a post for the Lawfare Institute that the page-long footnote dedicated to the potential bias behind the Steele dossier means “there is literally no way the FISA court could have missed it.”

“The FBI gave the court enough information to evaluate Steele’s credibility,” Kris wrote, also noting that the judges who signed off on the FISA applications were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Democrats are pointing to the now-released application as evidence that the FBI’s investigation into Page and the Trump campaign was legitimate. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post that the FISA documents “underscore the legitimate concern [the] FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and improperly and illegally influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’

“The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies,” Pelosi added.

[Mic]

Trump: Cohen taping me ‘totally unheard of & perhaps illegal’

President Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that he “did nothing wrong” after reports surfaced that Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, secretly recorded him shortly before the 2016 presidential election talking about buying the rights to the story of a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump.

In his first public comments since a series of explosive reports in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump said it was “inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

The recording was seized in April when the FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel rooms in Manhattan, The Times reported, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

Laws on taping private conversations differ from state to state, and it is not clear where Cohen recorded Trump. New York state, for example, has a “one-party consent” law, which makes it a crime to record an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party participating in the conversation consents.

The Journal reported the conversation took place in September 2016, a month after American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had purchased the rights to ex-Playmate Karen McDougal’s story of the alleged extramarital affair.

Cohen suggested that he and Trump consider buying the rights to her story themselves, which would have effectively reimbursed the Enquirer for its payments to McDougal. It is unclear why they didn’t, The Journal said.

McDougal has said that AMI agreed to pay her $150,000 for her story but then did not publish it.

David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of AMI, is a Trump supporter who reportedly described the president as a “personal friend.” Former AMI employees told The New Yorker that Pecker often buys the rights to a story in order to bury it — a tabloid-industry practice called “catch and kill.”

McDougal says she had an year-long affair with Trump more than a decade ago, which Trump has denied.

McDougal also has filed a lawsuit seeking the right to speak publicly about her alleged affair with Trump. Adult film star Stormy Daniels has also sued the president to nullify a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged affair, which the White House also has denied.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, said the recording demonstrated no wrongdoing by Trump.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.”

Trump was “unaware” that Cohen was recording him, CNBC reported on Friday, citing a source familiar with the matter. The source also said other tapes exist, but the president’s legal team is not aware of any other “substantive tapes.” NBC News has confirmed that report.

The White House declined to comment.

Often described as Trump’s “fixer,” Cohen is the subject of a probe by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said, “Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that. But suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape.”

Barbara Jones, the special master overseeing the review of evidence seized from Cohen, said on Friday she was provided with 4,085 items that Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization marked as attorney-client privilege. But Jones pushed back on the designation of 1,452 of those items, so those will be handed over to government investigators.

Cohen’s lawyers found the recording when reviewing the seized materials from the raid and shared it with Trump’s lawyers, The Times said, citing three unnamed sources.

[NBC News]

Reality

New York is a “one-party consent” state, meaning as long as one party of the conversation, most likely you, agree to be recorded then it’s totally legal.

And of course Trump never heard of Michael Cohen’s secret tapes, that’s why they were secret tapes!

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.

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