In yet another blow to Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the special counsel was forced to fire a top FBI agent after possible anti-Trump text messages were discovered.
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New York Times reports:
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, removed a top F.B.I. agent from his investigation into Russian election meddling after the Justice Department’s inspector general began examining whether the agent had sent text messages that expressed anti-Trump political views, according to three people briefed on the matter. The agent, Peter Strzok, is considered one of the most experienced and trusted F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators. He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. But Mr. Strzok was reassigned this summer from Mr. Mueller’s investigation to the F.B.I.’s human resources department, where he has been stationed since. The people briefed on the case said the transfer followed the discovery of text messages in which Mr. Strzok and a colleague reacted to news events, like presidential debates, in ways that could appear critical of Mr. Trump.
In a statement to the New York Times, Strzok lawyer said”we are aware of the allegation and are taking any and all appropriate steps.”
In August, ABC News reported that Strzok quit Team Mueller for unknown reasons. “It’s unclear why Strzok stepped away from Mueller’s team of nearly two dozen lawyers, investigators and administrative staff. Strzok, who has spent much of his law enforcement career working counterintelligence cases and has been unanimously praised by government officials who spoke with ABC News, is now working for the FBI’s human resources division,” reported Mike Levine.
An interesting point to note about Strzok’s ‘anti-Trump,’ text messages is this is one of the few leaks from within Mueller’s probe that reflect negatively on the special counsel. Most leaks, usually reported first CNN or the Wall Street Journal, portray a focus Mueller making his way up Trump’s chain of command by way of interviews and indictments, as seen with Manafort and Flynn.
Details of Strzok’s firing come amid Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about making contact with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period.