Former high-ranking FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who came under fire for sending text messages to a girlfriend that were critical of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election campaign, has been fired from his job at the FBI, The Washington Post reported on Monday morning. The firing took place on Friday, but Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, revealed the dismissal on Monday.
Following Trump’s May 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the firing of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in March of this year, as NPR reported, Strzok becomes the third high-ranking member of the FBI involved in the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia to be forced out of the bureau.
Strzok’s lawyer, in a statement released Monday and posted on Twitter, said that Strzok’s firing — carried out by current FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich — was the result of “political pressure.”
Trump frequently attacked Strzok on Twitter, posting 22 messages naming Strzok since December of last year, according to the Trump Twitter Archive database. Strzok’s texts critical of Trump in 2016 were exchanged with another FBI official, Lisa Page, and Trump often referred to the two as “lovers” in Twitter postings, and in his most recent Twitter message mentioning Strzok, Trump referred to Page, a high-ranking FBI lawyer who at the time worked for McCabe, as “the lovely Lisa Page.”
An Inspector General’s report had criticized Strzok for his text messages but said that there was no evidence that his work at the FBI was tainted by political bias, according to The Washington Post.
Strzok had been assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team carrying out the Russia investigation after Comey’s firing, but after the text messages between Strzok and Page were discovered, Mueller removed Strzok from the group and had him reassigned to routine FBI duties unconnected to the Russia probe, The Post reported.
The FBI Office of Professional Responsibility had already made the decision to suspend Strzok for 60 days and demote him in rank. But according to Strzok’s lawyer, that decision was “overruled” by Bowdich, in a move that “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.”
In testimony to Congress in July, Strzok blasted his treatment by Trump and by Republicans in Congress, saying that the fact that he was called to testify before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees was a “victory notch in Putin’s belt,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Politico reported.