Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.
The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, the Washington Post first reported Monday. FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered Strzok’s firing on Friday, according to Strzok’s lawyer.
In a statement, Strzok’s lawyer Aitan Goelman called the firing a “deeply troubling” departure from established precedent, and that “the decision to terminate was taken in response to political pressure, and to punish Special Agent Strzok for political speech protected by the First Amendment, not on a fair and independent examination of the facts.” (Read Goelman’s full statement below.)
Goelman said Bowdich had overruled the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which he said recommended a 60-day suspension and a demotion rather than Strzok’s firing.
Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages with ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page — over which he was expelled from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team last year— have become the stuff of conspiratorial Republican hysteria, but there has been no evidence presented that the messages, nor any anti-Trump sentiment Strzok held personally, ever affected his work at the bureau.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2018
In June, Strzok was escorted from the FBI building as part of “ongoing internal proceedings,” Goelman said at the time. “Despite being put through a highly questionable process, Pete has complied with every FBI procedure,” Goelman said.
Strzok’s hearing before the House Oversight and Judiciary committees in July got heated and extremely personal.
Before his work on the bureau’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Strzok played a central role in the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
He co-wrote an early draft of then-FBI Director James Comey’s letter to members of Congress announcing that the probe had been reopened just 11 days before the 2016 election. That re-opened probe was closed, nothing having changed, just two days before Election Day.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported in June that Strzok was one of several senior FBI officials involved in the probe who believed that fear of leaks from the bureau’s New York field office prompted the letter’s release.
“Even accepting Comey’s assertion that leaks played no role in his decision, we found that, at a minimum, a fear of leaks influenced the thinking of those who were advising him,” Horowitz’s report read.
Read Goelman’s full statement below:
Late Friday afternoon, the Deputy Director of the FBI overruled the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and departed from established precedent by firing 21-year FBI veteran Peter Strzok. In doing so he 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.
The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practice, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters.
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. In fact, in his decades of service, Special Agent Strzok has proved himself to be one of the country’s top counterintelligence officers, leading to only one conclusion – the decision to terminate was taken in response to political pressure, and to punish Special Agent Strzok for political speech protected by the First Amendment, not on a fair and independent examination of the facts. It is a decision that produces only one winner – those who seek to harm our country and weaken our democracy.
The FBI and the American people deserve better.