WASHINGTON — The FBI has fired Peter Strzok, an agent who was removed from the Russia probe last year for sending text messages disparaging President Donald Trump, Strzok’s lawyer said Monday.
Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich ordered the agent’s termination on Friday. Goelman said that the deputy director’s decision comes after the head of the office that normally handles disciplinary actions decided Strzok should instead face a demotion and 60-day suspension.
“The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practice, but also contradicts (FBI) 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,” Goelman said in his statement.
Special counsel Robert Mueller removed Strzok from his team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election last summer after an internal investigation first revealed texts with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom Strzok had an extramarital affair, that could be read as exhibiting political bias.
Strzok played a lead role in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and was involved in the FBI’s recommendation that no criminal charges be filed against the former secretary of state. He later helped oversee the beginnings of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and his involvement in both investigations has been seized on by Republicans as evidence of anti-Trump bias in the bureau and those investigating potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report released in June was harshly critical of Strzok, asserting he and Page “cast a cloud” over the FBI’s actions.
Strzok also faced off against Republicans during a 10-hour congressional hearing regarding the text messages in June.
“At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok said during his testimony. “The suggestion that I’m in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me — it simply couldn’t happen.”
Strzok’s firing was earlier reported by The Washington Post.