FBI agent dumped from special counsel’s team over potentially anti-Trump text messages
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired a top FBI investigator from his team over the summer after learning that the agent sent potentially anti-Trump messages to a colleague, sources tell ABC News.
ABC News first reported in August that Peter Strzok, who had been tapped only weeks earlier by Mueller to help lead the probe of alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, had left Mueller’s team. Details about the sudden departure remained elusive at the time.
As initially reported Saturday by The Washington Post and The New York Times, Strzok during the presidential campaign last year sent messages to a colleague that some believe could be interpreted as critical of then-candidate Donald Trump.
It’s unclear if the messages continued after Trump became president and after Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May. Strzok and the person he was texting, identified by The Washington Post as FBI veteran Lisa Page, both ended up on Mueller’s team.
According to the Post, Strzok and Page were involved in a romantic relationship.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement Saturday. He added that Lisa Page completed her assignment and “had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.”
The Justice Department’s inspector general has been looking into Strzok’s actions and indicated in a statement Saturday that the review is part of broader investigations announced in January of how the FBI and Justice Department handled matters associated with the 2016 presidential election.
The inspector general’s office “has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them,” the statement said.
Strzok has spent much of his law enforcement career working counterintelligence cases and has been unanimously praised by government officials who spoke with ABC News. He is now working for the FBI’s human resources division.
He is no stranger to complex and controversial investigations.
As chief of the FBI’s counterespionage section last year, he helped oversee the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was the secretary of state, and he took part in the bureau’s interview of her.
Within weeks of the end of the Clinton probe, Strzok found his office facing a new challenge: investigating Russia’s alleged efforts to influence last year’s presidential election, including the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said Saturday that department officials are “aware of the allegations” related to Strzok “and are taking any and all appropriate steps.”
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