Just one day after Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. in the Russia investigation, reports have surfaced accusing a veteran investigator in the special probe of sending disparaging text messages regarding President Donald Trump. The investigator was removed from the probe a few months ago because of the potential of a political bias.
The New York Times and The Washington Post both reported December 2 that Peter Strzok, a senior counterintelligence investigator at the F.B.I., was removed from the probe because several disparaging text messages indicated he wasn’t a fan of Trump and was possibly a Hillary Clinton supporter.
The news also comes a few months after his unexpected removal from the probe was announced in August. Strzok engaged in the text conversations with another F.B.I. official, Lisa Page, who he reportedly had an affair with, The Post reported. In addition, Strzok was one of the officials who interviewed Hillary Clinton in the investigation into her private email server, which led to no charges being filed.
Here’s what you need to know about Strzok and Page:
1. Strzok Reportedly Had an Affair With an F.B.I. Lawyer, Who He Often Texted Anti-Trump & Pro-Clinton Things To
While details surrounding his departure from the investigation hadn’t been revealed for months, The Post reported December 2 that Strzok was taken off the investigation for engaging in multiple text conversations which were deemed disparaging to Trump and supportive of Clinton.
It was also revealed that Strzok was having an affair with F.B.I. lawyer Lisa Page that was deemed “problematic.” But the text conversations that Strzok and Page exchanged during the Clinton investigation and 2016 presidential campaign were deemed far worse, The Post, citing multiple officials familiar with the matter, reported.
Further details of the text conversations the two engaged in weren’t disclosed, except for sources telling the news outlets that they would often react to the latest political news during the campaign.
2. Strzok Was Removed From the Investigation in August & Page Was 1 Month Later
In August, ABC News reported that Strzok was removed from the investigation. The news came one week after agents executed a search warrant on the Virginia home of Trump’s now-indicted former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The reason he was taken off the probe was unknown at the time, as he was well-respected in the industry as a law enforcement officer working counterintelligence cases. He was deemed to be one of the top investigators in the probe. ABC News reported that Strzok was taken off the Russia investigation and was sent to work in the F.B.I.’s human resource office, deemed a demotion within the agency.
A little over one month after Strzok’s departure, ABC News reported that F.B.I. lawyer Lisa Page also left the special Russia investigation. Page was known by various reports as being deeply experienced in “money laundering and organized crime cases,” and was part of what Wired magazine referred to as his “investigator’s dream team.”
While the departure of the two officials was well reported, they weren’t ever linked until now. A spokesman for Mueller’s office told The Post that Strzok was removed from his position “immediately upon learning of the allegations.” He added that Page left the investigative team two weeks prior to learning of the allegations.
3. Strzok Took Part in the Clinton Email Investigation & Reports Say He Personally Interviewed Her
Strzok helped oversee the F.B.I.’s investigation into the use of a private email server by Clinton when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama. She was accused of using her family’s private email server for her official communications, including over 100 emails which contained classified information. Strzok was one of the agents who interviewed Clinton herself in the probe during a 3-hour testimony.
Strzok and other Department of Justice officials eventually ruled that Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling her email communications, but recommended that no charges be filed against her.
Because of his previous ties to the Clinton investigation, some were taken by surprise when it was announced July 13 that Strzok was joining the team of over 25 people, including FBI employees and support staff, in Mueller’s exclusive probe.
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on much of the announcement, other than saying Strzok oversaw “the beginnings of the Russia probe last summer,” CNN reported.
The team of investigators moved into offices in southwest Washington D.C., near the Department of Justice headquarters. Strzok could often be seen accompanying Mueller, surrounded by other staff and security members, as the group was photographed walking in public.
4. Strzok Was Named in a Lawsuit Against the F.B.I. For Its Use of Polygraphs When Interviewing Applicants
There isn’t much information publicly available regarding Strzok, other than he worked for years as an intelligence research specialist for some time before joining the F.B.I., where he’s worked since at least the late 1990s.
In a 2000 lawsuit filed by multiple plaintiffs against the F.B.I. in regard to polygraph tests, Strzok was named as being part of the interview process. It stated that one of the plaintiffs, Eric Croddy, worked as a researcher in the private sector and was applying for a job at the agency. He was subsequently interviewed by a special agent, Kathy Muller and various others. He also took a written examination and a polygraph, which he accused Muller of calling a “line in the sand,” saying he was being deceptive.
One of the other officials Croddy interviewed with was Strzok, the lawsuit said. It noted that Strzok, at the time, was part of an F.B.I. unit that specifically dealt with “chemical and biological terrorism incidents.”
5. If Evidence Shows a Political Bias, a Public Report Could Be Filed
Officials from the F.B.I. said they were further reviewing communications between Strzok and Page to see if there was any political bias in their work.
The Department of Justice’s inspector general’s office said in a statement to The Post that investigators were “reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them.”
Neither Strzok nor Page responded to the news outlets for comment. If evidence of a political bias is found in their work, it could result in a public report being filed.
Some on social media, including ex-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, have called for the text conversations between Strzok and Page to be released as a matter of public record.