National Security

Peter Strzok, key figure in Russia probe, sues FBI, DOJ over firing

Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent who came under fire for sending disparaging text messages about President Trump and other political figures during the 2016 presidential race, is suing his former employer over his firing, claiming the decision was a result of “unrelenting pressure” from Trump.

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the FBI and Justice Department, Strzok’s counsel argued that his firing was politically motivated and in violation of two constitutional amendments.{mosads}

In particular, they argued that he was fired for using his protected political speech under the First Amendment and that the FBI also “deprived” him of his due process under the Fifth Amendment by denying him the right to appeal the decision.

The lawsuit also alleges that unlawful leaks to the press violated the Privacy Act.

“The concerted public campaign to disparage and, ultimately, fire Special Agent Strzok was enabled by the defendants’ deliberate and unlawful disclosure to the media of texts, intended to be private, from an FBI systems of records, in violation of the Privacy Act,” according to the court documents.

Strzok, who was fired in August 2018, argued that his firing was politically motivated because a top FBI executive originally recommended a different, less extreme disciplinary response to his conduct.

FBI Assistant Director Candice Will, who led the Office of Professional Responsibility, initially recommended against firing the agent, instead proposing that he “be demoted and suspended for sixty days without pay,” the court documents read.

“Will’s decision was based upon the facts underlying the charges in the proposed removal, the agency’s schedule of disciplinary offenses, the agency’s record of discipline in comparable circumstances, and upon Strzok’s long and outstanding record of service to the FBI and the country,” the court documents argue, noting that it also reflected a “last chance agreement” that Strzok had accepted.

Nevertheless, Strzok was still fired, and because his firing was “effective immediately,” he was prevented him from appealing the decision to the FBI’s Disciplinary Review Board or any other formal avenue to receive due process. 

“The discharge decision was made by Deputy Director David Bowdich, and was the result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media,” the court filing states.

Strzok’s firing came also after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a lengthy 500-page report last year that fiercely criticized Strzok for his conduct, saying he displayed a “biased state of mind” during a key phase of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices.

Strzok, a 21-year veteran of the bureau, sent messages critical of the then-Republican candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential race to then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The two were having an extramarital affair at the time.

One of the most explosive revelations from Horowitz’s report was a text Strzok sent to Page in which he said they will “stop” Trump from becoming president. 

Strzok described that text during public testimony before Congress last year as “written late at night off the cuff and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero.”

Horowitz ultimately said his investigative team found no evidence that any decision made during the course of the investigation was a result of political bias or improper influence. Nonetheless, the report found that those actions cast a cloud over the department and was deeply critical of FBI and Justice Department leadership.

Strzok served both as the No. 2 official on the FBI Clinton probe as well as briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team. But Mueller promptly removed Strzok from his team after Horowitz’s internal review uncovered the critical Trump text messages.

Revelations of the text messages sparked a barrage of attacks from Trump and Republicans, who have alleged that the top brass at the FBI and Justice Department harbored an anti-Trump bias during the 2016 election.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on Strzok’s lawsuit.

Updated: 3:13 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mueller investigation Robert Mueller

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