FBI fires Peter Strzok, agent who sent anti-Trump text messages
Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who exchanged anti-Trump text messages with his co-worker girlfriend, was fired, his lawyer said Monday.
Strzok is the third high-profile FBI official to be fired from the bureau since President Donald Trump took office. Last year, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. This year, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions days before he was set to retire and his benefits would have set in.
Strzok, who worked for the bureau for 22 years, helped lead the investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Last summer, Strzok was removed from the Russia inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered texts between Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page disparaging presidential candidate Trump in 2016.
Trump has often pointed to Strzok and Page's text messages to attack the special counsel's Russia inquiry, which he contends is a "witch hunt" biased against him.
Monday, Trump welcomed Strzok's firing and suggested the Mueller inquiry should be dropped.
"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!" the president wrote on Twitter.
When Strzok testified during a heated hearing with lawmakers last month, he insisted that his personal opinions of Trump hadn't affected his work.
"Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: Not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took," Strzok told two House committees.
"This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference and for every other investigation I’ve worked on," Strzok said in a chamber packed with a standing-room-only crowd. "It is not who I am, and it is not something I would ever do. Period."
In a statement, Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman said the FBI deputy director overruled the bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility and "departed from established precedent" by firing Strzok on Friday.
"This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans," Goelman said. "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."
The FBI maintained that the decision was the product of the "standard FBI review and disciplinary process" after Strzok's conduct was highlighted in the report from the Justice Department's inspector general. That report was referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
"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 bureau said in a statement. "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."
Contributing: Erin Kelly