FBI agent Peter Strzok, a leading figure in the Clinton email investigation and the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, has been fired by the Bureau, according to a statement released on Monday, August 13 by his attorney. Strzok’s termination is clearly an exercise in damage control on the part of the FBI. It is also further evidence that a cadre of senior Bureau officials engaged in a pattern of gross misconduct both during and after the presidential election. Driven by a desire to influence the vote in favor of Hillary Clinton and indignation when they failed in this endeavor, these officials sought to destabilize the Donald Trump presidency.
The statement from Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said the decision was made Friday, August 10 by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. The former counter-intelligence agent had been reassigned to the FBI’s human resources department after he was removed from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. This followed the revelation that Strzok had exchanged politically-charged text messages with Bureau attorney Lisa Page during the 2016 election campaign season and while he himself was leading the probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.
The FBI House of Cards
Strzok had been referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which apparently recommended he be suspended for 60 days and demoted. Goelman’s statement on the firing of his client was highly critical of the decision, saying that the Deputy Director had overruled the OPR. “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans,” Goelman said.
In June, Strzok had been relieved of duty and escorted out of the FBI building – so Friday’s decision merely makes his termination official. Strzok joins former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on the list of senior Bureau officials whose firings can be connected to their involvement with the Clinton investigation and/or the probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
It is apparent that all three men considered themselves entitled, above the law, beyond oversight, and, ultimately, beyond reproach. Each reacted to their firing with indignation and each has suggested that these decisions were politically motivated. The irony of that is stunning when one considers the politically-charged conduct displayed by all three of these senior law enforcement officials.
Ironic Accusations of Political Motivation
The reactions from Strzok and his attorney were particularly ironic. Despite Strzok’s many anti-Trump text messages – more than one of which strongly suggested that he had at least considered using his official position to prevent Trump from becoming, or remaining, president – the former agent insisted that his actions had never been influenced by his obvious political bias. His attorney, however, immediately portrayed Strzok’s firing as a political decision.
Goelman has claimed that, if Strzok had intended to actively prevent Trump from winning the election, he would have leaked the existence of the FBI’s investigation into Russian collusion before Americans went to the polls. This makes little sense, however; had anyone from the FBI revealed the investigation of the Trump team at that time, Congress, the media and the American people would have demanded to know the details of why the investigation had been opened. The FBI and Department of Justice would then have been put in the excruciating position of having to refuse to release any information.
Strozk himself, in a text message to Page during that time, expressed his concern that there is no ‘there’, there, in reference to the collision investigation.
The revelation that then-President Barack Obama’s FBI had begun investigating the presidential candidate of the opposing party – followed by the Bureau’s refusal to explain why – would likely have enraged a large section of the voting public and propelled Trump to a landslide victory.
America has, almost certainly, not heard the last of Peter Strzok. The Justice Department’s Inspector General has yet to release another report into FBI misconduct and potential abuse of its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act powers. Strzok remains a central figure in that affair. His former lover, Lisa Page, may have contributed to his firing with her own closed-door testimony to Congress. She resigned from the FBI in early 2017 and may be the only member of the Bureau’s anti-Trump cabal who escapes further scrutiny and, perhaps, legal jeopardy. Like Comey and McCabe, Peter Strzok may be less fortunate.