Peter Strzok says he was fired unfairly – now suing FBI to be reinstated: Anti-Trump texts were protected speech
Former FBI employee and Mueller probe investigator Peter Strzok says he was fired unfairly and unlawfully, and is now suing to be reinstated, claiming his removal was “politically-driven and illegal.”
The suit says, a “campaign to publicly vilify Special Agent Strzok contributed to the FBI’s ultimate decision to unlawfully terminate him, as well as to frequent incidents of public and online harassment and threats of violence to Strzok and his family that began when the texts were first disclosed to the media and continue to this day.”
In the lawsuit, Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman says the FBI deputy director who fired him was responding to “unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media.”
Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent who helped lead FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team after the texts with FBI lawyer Lisa Page came to light. He was fired from the FBI last August. The watchdog office criticized both Strzok and Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, for their judgment in sending the messages but did not find that the Clinton email investigation was compromised by political bias.In an October text message, Strzok wrote to Page: “I am riled up. Trump is a fucking idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer. I can’t pull away. What the fuck happened to our country??!?!”
Many of the texts, on FBI cell phones, were bitingly critical of Trump during his 2016 run for office. They were found by the Justice Department’s inspector general during its investigation of the FBI’s Clinton email probe.
The lawsuit also accuses the administration of being inconsistent with the kind of political speech it allows from people on the federal payroll.
“The Trump Administration has consistently tolerated and even encouraged partisan political speech by federal employees,” the lawsuit contends, “as long as this speech praises President Trump and attacks his political adversaries.”
The lawsuit claims that this behavior from the administration constitutes “viewpoint discrimination” and “is part of a broader campaign against the very principle of free speech underlying the First Amendment” that was “initiated and led by” President Trump.
In a 500-page report released in June, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz condemned Trump-fired FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation and accused senior FBI officials, including Strzok, of having shown a “willingness to take official action” to prevent Trump from becoming president, The Washington Post reported.
“The inspector general did not find evidence supporting assertions made by the president and his allies that political bias inside the FBI had rigged the case to clear Clinton, but the report cited numerous instances of unprofessionalism, bias and misjudgment that hurt the bureau’s credibility,” the Post reported. “In particular, the report singled out lead agent Peter Strzok as showing anti-Trump bias that could have affected his thinking on the case during the immediate run-up to the 2016 election.”
The texts exchanged by Strzok and Page first came to light in late 2017 and contained angry, insulting messages aimed at then-candidate Trump and his supporters.
“Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart,” Strzok says in one, “I could SMELL the Trump support.” In another message, Strzok called Trump a “a f***ing idiot.” In another, he promised that Trump would never get elected because “we’ll stop it.”
Strzok was fired for the text messages in August 2018. Page later told congressional investigators that Strzok joined the Russia investigation team with the goals of impeachment and career advancement.
After Strzok was officially fired in August, Trump unloaded on him on Twitter. “Fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok is a fraud, as is the rigged investigation he started. There was no Collusion or Obstruction with Russia, and everybody, including the Democrats, know it. The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!” Trump tweeted in August. “Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt — why isn’t this so-called ‘probe’ ended immediately? Why aren’t these angry and conflicted Democrats instead looking at Crooked Hillary?”
Below are some of the messages between Page and Strzok revealing political bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton compiled by The Washington Post:
April 1, 2016
Page: “So look, you say [to your wife] we text on that phone when we talk about hillary because it can’t be traced, you were just venting bc you feel bad that you’re gone so much but it can’t be helped right now.”
July 26, 2016
Page: “Yeah, it is pretty cool. [Clinton] just has to win now. I’m not going to lie, I got a flash of nervousness yesterday about trump. The sandernistas have the potential to make a very big mistake here …”
Strzok: “I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about the anarchist Assanges who will take fed information and disclose it to disrupt. We’ve gotta get the memo [on the findings of the Clinton email server investigation] and brief and case filing done.”
July 31, 2016
Strzok: “And damn [the opening of the investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion] feels momentous. Because this matters. The other one [the Clinton investigation] did, too, but that was to ensure we didn’t F something up. This matters because this MATTERS. So super glad to be on this voyage with you.”
Aug. 6, 2016
Page: “This is not to take away from the unfairness of it all, but we are both deeply fortunate people. … And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace [in reference to Trump and possible collusion with Russia].”
Strzok: “Thanks. It’s absolutely true that we’re both very fortunate. And of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps….”
Aug. 8, 2016
Page: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Aug. 15, 2016
Strzok: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s [Andrew McCabe] office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
May 18, 2017
Strzok: “For me, and this case [the Russia collusion investigation, which Strzok was a part of until being removed for bias], I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with [the Clinton investigation]. Now I need to fix it and finish it.”
Strzok: “you and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”
Nov. 9, 2016
Page: “Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.”
A GoFundMe page set up on behalf of Strzok around one year ago has raised nearly $450,00o. It is unclear if the funds raised will go towards paying lawyers in his lawsuit against the FBI and DOJ.