The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, whose anti-Trump text messages fueled controversy over the investigation into Russia’s election interference, a move that President Donald Trump quickly celebrated.
“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally,” Trump said in a tweet. “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.”
But Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, who disclosed the agent’s dismissal Monday, said in a statement that “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.”
Text messages denouncing then-candidate Trump that Strzok exchanged with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page in 2016 have been cited by Trump and Republican allies in an effort to undermine the investigation into Russia meddling and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it.
Strzok, 48, was a lead investigator at the start of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference, as well as the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. In a tweet on Monday, Trump wrote that the Clinton probe now “should be properly redone!”
Robert Mueller, who is special counsel in charge of the Russia probe, removed Strzok from his team after learning about the text messages. Page left the FBI earlier this year.
“Long overdue,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a tweet after Strzok’s firing became public.
Goelman said the FBI departed from established precedent by firing Strzok, who had served in the bureau for 21 years. Goelman said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich “reversed the decision of the career FBI official responsible for employee discipline who concluded, through an independent review process, that a 60-day suspension and demotion from supervisory duties was the appropriate punishment.”
When Strzok testified before House lawmakers in July, Republicans maintained that anti-Trump bias “turned our system of justice on its head,” as House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte put it. “We don’t want to read text message after text message dripping with bias against one of the two presidential candidates,” added Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.
Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York countered that the Strzok-Page inquiry and the hearing amounted to “a monumental distraction” from the legitimate Russia investigation.
Strzok echoed Democrats’ response that he’s a pawn in an effort to undercut or end the investigation into the meddling that U.S. intelligence agencies found was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I strongly believe today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart,” he said.
Strzok said he 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. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of expressing that or exposing that information never crossed my mind.”
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