Special counsel Robert Mueller ousted a top
counterintelligence investigator on his team because of an
investigation into messages he sent that could be seen as
critical of President Donald Trump.
The investigator, Peter Strzok, worked on the FBI’s
investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email
server before joining Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s
interference in the 2016 election.
Officials are examining the texts for evidence of bias
in the Clinton and Trump investigations.
They are reportedly concerned the messages will fuel
Trump’s claim that the Russia probe is a political “witch
Special counsel Robert Mueller ousted top counterintelligence
veteran Peter Strzok from his team in August after the Justice
Department’s inspector general began examining whether Strzok
sent text messages that could be seen as critical of President
Donald Trump, The New York Times reported on
As the deputy head of counterintelligence, Strzok was widely
considered one of the most experienced investigators in his field
at the FBI. He worked extensively on the bureau’s inquiry into
former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private
email server before joining Mueller’s team.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that
while Strzok was working on the Clinton email investigation, he
exchanged texts expressing anti-Trump sentiment with an FBI
lawyer, Lisa Page, with whom the Post said he was engaging in an
extramarital affair. At the time, Page worked for Deputy Director
Page and Strzok reportedly continued exchanging politically
charged texts throughout the 2016 campaign season. Strzok was
subsequently removed from Mueller’s team after the inspector
general began examining the messages.
Strzok’s and Page’s communications are now being examined for any
evidence of bias in their handling of the Clinton and Trump
investigations, according to The Post.
ABC News first reported Strzok’s ouster
in August, but it was unclear at the time why he was removed from
the special counsel’s team. The report said that Strzok had
stepped away from the probe and had begun working at the FBI’s
human resources division.
A former FBI agent who worked with Strzok on and off over several
years in the bureau’s counterintelligence division told Business Insider in
August that Strzok’s move to HR means he has now been
separated from counterintelligence work altogether. The FBI
sometimes parks agents in the human resources department, the
agent explained, when they need to be reassigned quickly away
from substantive matters.
The Strzok-Page texts could fuel further demands from Trump and
his defenders for a special counsel to examine how the bureau
handled the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server
to conduct government business. Officials are also reportedly
concerned that news of the texts could spark further claims from
the president and his allies that the Russia investigation is a
political “witch hunt.”