What did Peter Strzok do?

As former top FBI official Peter Strzok faces congressional requests to testify, it’s worth examining who he is.

Strzok is the subject of what I see as one of the most damaging conclusions in the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general report: As the nation’s top FBI counterespionage official, he indicated “a willingness to take official action to impact [Donald Trump’s] electoral prospects.” 

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Specifically, while working on the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonProminent Putin critic: If Trump turns me over, I'm dead Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia Trump tweets old video of Clinton talking up 'a strong Russia' MORE classified email investigation in August 2016, Strzok wrote that he and unnamed others would “stop” Trump from getting elected. He shared his intentions with at least one other FBI official, attorney Lisa Page.


Strzok isn’t just any rank-and-file guy spouting off in one ill-advised email. His fingerprints were on every FBI investigation that stood to impact Clinton’s presidential candidacy or to hurt Trump before and after the 2016 election. 

He was chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section and number two in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. He led the team of investigators in the Clinton classified email probe and led the FBI investigation into alleged Russian interference in the election. He was involved in the controversial anti-Trump “Steele dossier” used, in part, to obtain multiple secret wiretaps. He was the one who interviewed Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI only to later learn that agents reportedly didn’t think he’d lied. And Strzok was the “top” FBI agent appointed to work on the team of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE to investigate alleged Trump-Russia collusion.

The earth-shattering finding on Strzok by the inspector general (IG) confirms a citizenry’s worst fears: A high-ranking government intel official allegedly conspired to affect the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. 

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It’s also directly relevant to the FBI investigations of Trump-Russia collusion, which the IG did not examine in this report. There are multiple allegations of FBI misbehavior in that inquiry, including conspiracies to frame Trump, and improper spying on Trump associates. Investigating those allegations takes on an added sense of urgency with news that the FBI’s top counterespionage official expressed willingness to use his official position against a political enemy.

Yet, for all of that, Strzok is still collecting a salary, courtesy of taxpayers, at the FBI Human Resources Department. And here’s the chilling part: If it weren’t for the IG's investigation, requested by Congress, he’d likely still be helping lead special counsel Mueller’s investigation of Trump today.

An attorney for Strzok reportedly says Strzok is willing to answer calls to testify to Congress because he "thinks that his position, character and actions have all been misrepresented and caricatured and he wants an opportunity to remedy that."
 
The IG says he cannot be certain that all of Strzok’s text messages were recovered; Strzok has said his texts were not nefarious and his investigations were always fair. Here’s a small sampling of texts and timeline notes (full timeline here):
 
Aug. 8, 2016:
 
FBI Attorney Lisa Page, who also worked on Special Counsel Mueller’s team: ”[Trump is] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok: ”No. No he won't. We'll stop it.”
 
Aug. 15, 2016:
 
Strzok: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] 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.”
 
Late August 2016:
 
Reportedly working for the FBI, Professor Stefan Halper, a reputed one-time CIA operative, meets with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, offering his services as a foreign-policy adviser, according to the Washington Post. Halper would later offer to hire Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
 
Somewhere around this time, the FBI initiates a new wiretap against ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit George Will charges that Trump colluded with Putin Mueller releases list of more than 500 pieces of evidence against Manafort MORE, according to CNN, which extends at least through early 2017.
 
September 2016:
 
Former British spy Christopher Steele, hired by private research firm Fusion GPS to investigate the Trump campaign, becomes an FBI source and uses Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr as a point of contact. Steele tells Ohr that he’s "desperate” that Trump not get elected.
 
President Obama warns Russia not to interfere in the U.S. election.
 
Sept. 2, 2016:
 
FBI attorney Lisa Page texts Strzok that “[President Obama] wants to know everything we’re doing.”
 
Nov. 3, 2016:
 
Page texts Strzok: “The [New York Times] probability numbers are dropping every day. I’m scared for our organization.”
 
March 14, 2017:
 
Page texts Strzok: “Finally two pages away from finishing ["All the President’s Men"]. Did you know the president resigns in the end?!” 
 
Strzok:“What?!?! God, that we should be so lucky.”
 
May 22, 2017:
 
Strzok texts about "unfinished business" that he "unleashed" with the Clinton classified email probe and states: "Now I need to fix it and finish it.” He also refers to the special counsel probe, which hadn't yet begun in earnest, as an "investigation leading to impeachment" but also states he had a "gut sense and concern there's no big 'there' there.”
 
The IG's report found that:
 
- Strzok showed bias in his decision to prioritize the Trump-Russia investigation over the Clinton probe. 
 
- His texts “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions they made [re: Clinton and Trump-Russia probes] were impacted by bias or improper considerations,” “appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about” the Clinton classified email probe, and included “statements of hostility toward then candidate Trump and statements of support for candidate Clinton.
 
- “Most of the text messages raising such questions pertained to the [Trump]-Russia investigation, which was not a part of this review.”
 
- Strzok had a “biased state of mind but, even more seriously … a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects” and demonstrated behavior “antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
 
He brought “discredit" to himself, “sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling” of the Clinton classified email probe and “impacted the reputation of the FBI.” 
 
- The damage “extends far beyond the scope” of the Clinton probe and “goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral fact-finding and political independence.”
 
- He showed “extremely poor judgment” and “a gross lack of professionalism.”
 
- He used personal digital accounts for FBI business.
 
If you're still not sure what to think, read the IG report for yourself: https://www.justice.gov/file/1071991/download.
 
Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy-award winning investigative journalist, author of the New York Times bestsellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”