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Strzok: Trump behaving like an authoritarian

Strzok: Trump behaving like an authoritarian
© Greg Nash

Peter Strzok, the fired former FBI agent who became a political target of President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE, compared the president’s attacks on certain government officials to the acts of an authoritarian, saying they have created a “chilling effect” on those serving or considering a career in public service.

“I know from people I keep in touch with that the personal attacks have had a chilling effect on employees in the government and, I have to imagine, on those considering public service. There’s no way it couldn’t. That’s the goal,” Strzok said in an interview with The Atlantic published Friday.

“Trump has shattered the norms of presidential behavior in a way that impacts not just individuals, but governmental organizations themselves,” Strzok said. “I worry four more years of Trump threatens significant, long-term harm.”

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The former FBI counterintelligence agent pointed to Trump's attacks against government officials like former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMcCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to know about the Pfizer vaccine announcement Watch live: McCabe testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee MORE as well as retired Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanEsper: If my replacement is 'a real yes man' then 'God help us' Ukrainian president whose call with Trump sparked impeachment congratulates Biden Alexander Vindman congratulates Biden, Harris on election victory MORE and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchWhy it's time for a majority female Cabinet Giuliani associate Correia pleads guilty to making false statements Teenager who filmed George Floyd's death to be honored MORE, who offered key testimony during the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Strzok said Trump’s allies in Congress and the media have followed his lead in disparaging and attacking public servants like Yovanovitch who they see as part of the opposition.

In a phone call last year, Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the U.S. ambassador was “going to go through some things.” 

“Nothing is off-limits. This is the behavior of authoritarians,” Strzok told The Atlantic.

Strzok is suing the FBI and Justice Department for making public his personal text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair. Trump has repeatedly mocked and disparaged both Strzok and Page on Twitter and at campaign rallies. Strzok said the episode has been deeply painful.

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“It’s been horrible,” he said. “I know my actions played a part in that. Still, it’s been horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone."

It was Strzok’s first media interview since he was fired from the FBI in August 2018 for sending anti-Trump text messages. Strzok, who led the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and was removed from Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s Russia probe when his texts were revealed, is back in the spotlight as he promotes his new book, “Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump.”

In the interview, Strzok accused Trump of being “compromised” by Russia and said that explains the “pervasive pattern” of the president, in his eyes, favoring the interests of Moscow over America.

“I don’t think that Trump, when he meets with Putin, receives a task list for the next quarter. But I do think the president is compromised, that he is unable to put the interests of our nation first, that he acts from hidden motives, because there is leverage over him, held specifically by the Russians but potentially others as well,” said Strzok, rattling off a series of examples. 

“Why did [Trump] not take stronger action against the Russians for placing bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan? Why has he, for no apparent reason, moved 11,000 American troops out of Germany? Or here’s an obscure one: Why did he parrot Russian propaganda and call Montenegro a “very aggressive” nation when that country had just joined NATO? Everybody knows damn well that Donald Trump couldn’t find Montenegro on a map," he said.

"Who’s putting these ideas in his head?” Strzok added.