FBI fires Strzok in wake of anti-Trump text messages


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Peter Strzok, a longtime FBI agent who was removed from the Russia investigation over anti-Trump text messages, has been fired by the agency, his lawyer said Monday.

The FBI had been reviewing Strzok’s employment after the politically charged text messages were discovered last year. President Donald Trump’s allies have seized on the texts, saying they show the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia is tainted by political bias.

Strzok was fired late Friday by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, said his lawyer, Aitan Goelman. He said the 21-year veteran of the FBI was removed because of political pressure and “to punish Special Agent Strzok for political speech protected by the First Amendment.”

The FBI said Strzok was subject to the standard FBI review and disciplinary process and defended the decision to overrule the OPR. Strzok, who exchanged text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, vigorously defended himself at a combative House hearing in July that spanned 10 hours. Strzok repeatedly insisted the texts, including ones in which he called Trump a “disaster,” did not reflect political bias and had not infected his work.

Texts between the two included their observations of the 2016 election and criticism of Trump. They used words like “idiot,” ‘’loathsome,” ‘’menace” and “disaster” to describe him. In one text four days before the election, Page told Strzok that the “American presidential election, and thus, the state of the world, actually hangs in the balance.”

In another text, Page wrote Strzok in August 2016: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

Strzok responded: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok worked on the early stages of the Russia investigation in 2016 and worked on the special counsel’s team for a few months after Robert Mueller was appointed in May 2017.

Meanwhile, prosecutors on Monday rested their tax evasion and bank fraud case in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, closing two weeks of testimony that depicted him as using millions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts to fund a luxurious lifestyle – and later obtaining millions more in bank loans under false pretenses.

The trial of the longtime Washington operator now turns to Manafort’s defense team, which has so far blamed any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, the former Manafort protege who testified he and his former boss committed crimes together for years. Defense attorneys have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they’ve sought to undermine his testimony.

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