Peter Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the FBI, has been fired over controversial texts that subjected him and the bureau to national scrutiny, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
A lawyer for Strzok told the Post that FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich terminated Strzok on Friday, overturning a previous decision from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility. That move let Strzok stay at the bureau’s Washington office, but punished him with a 60-day suspension and a demotion from deputy assistant director for counterintelligence to a post in human resources.
Strzok has drawn heavy criticism from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, and sat for two exhaustive Congressional hearings this summer over text messages critical of Trump he exchanged with former FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he was also having an extramarital affair.
Strzok first came into the spotlight in the summer of 2017, when he was removed from his position working on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after the anti-Trump text messages were uncovered.
Some of the messages that drew the most ire from Republicans included an August 8, 2016 exchange in which Page questioned whether Trump could ever be elected president, and Strzok responded, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Strzok later explained the comment as an “off-the-cuff” remark written in the context of Trump insulting the Gold Star family of war hero Humayun Khan, whose parents spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Trump has seized on the controversy surrounding Strzok and Page to discredit the Mueller probe and the FBI in general, frequently calling for investigations into “the FBI lovers” and other officials, including former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The president tweeted his approval of the news on Monday. “Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation,” Trump wrote. “It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”
Strzok has since publicly apologized for the messages, claiming he was simply expressing personal opinions to a friend that did not in any way bias his work. At the time, Strzok was on the FBI team investigating the private servers and email accounts Hillary Clinton used when she was Secretary of State.
This may not be the end of the Strzok story
Although Strzok is gone from the FBI for good, his firing may continue to cause controversy for the bureau.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, predicted in a tweet that Bowdich is “absolutely going to get dragged through oversight hearings at some point demanding to know why he overruled FBI OPR with respect to Strzok.”
“That’s highly unusual,” he wrote. “Maybe legal but definitely not standard practice.”