Peter Strzok, the FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias, defended himself during a contentious hearing.
Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who exchanged anti-Trump text messages with his coworker girlfriend, has been fired, his lawyer said Monday.
Strzok is the third high-profile FBI official to be fired from the bureau since President Donald Trump took office. Last year, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey. And earlier this year, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days before he was set to retire and his benefits would have set in.
Strzok, who worked for the bureau for 22 years, had helped lead the investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Last summer, Strzok was removed from the Russia inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered texts between Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page disparaging then-candidate Trump in 2016.
Trump has pointed to Strzok’s and Page’s text messages to attack the special counsel’s probe, which he has often labeled a “witch hunt,” is biased against him.
“Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX. The Democrats paid for the phony and discredited Dossier which was, along with Comey, McCabe, Strzok and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, used to begin the Witch Hunt. Disgraceful!” the president tweeted Aug. 1.
Still, when Strzok testified during a heated hearing with lawmakers last month, he insisted that his personal opinions of Trump hadn’t affected his work.
“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: Not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok told two House committees.
“This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference and for every other investigation I’ve worked on,” Strzok said in a chamber packed with a standing-room-only crowd. “It is not who I am, and it is not something I would ever do. Period.”
In a statement provided to USA TODAY, attorney Aitan Goelman said the FBI deputy director overruled the bureau’s Office of Personal Responsibility and “departed from established precedent” by firing Strzok on Friday.
“This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans,” Goelman said. “A lengthy investigation and multiple rounds of Congressional testimony failed to produce a shred of evidence that Special Agent Strzok’s personal views ever affected his work.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Contributing: Erin Kelly
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