Peter Strzok, an FBI agent who was removed from an investigation of ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign over anti-Trump text messages, has been fired by the agency, his lawyer said.
Strzok, who in private text messages once called Trump a "disaster," was fired late last week by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, attorney Aitan Goelman, said on August 13.
Goelman claimed that the 21-year veteran of the FBI was removed because of political pressure over his politically charged texts, and to "punish" him for "political speech protected by the First Amendment" of the Constitution.
Goelman also said the FBI had overruled the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, which he said had determined that a 60-day suspension and demotion from supervisory duties was "the appropriate punishment."
Trump and his allies in Congress seized on Strzok’s texts — which called Trump an "idiot," a "menace," and "loathsome" during his election campaign — saying they showed the FBI’s Russia investigation was tainted by political bias.
In a statement on August 13, the FBI said Strzok was subject to a standard FBI disciplinary process and defended Bowdich’s decision to overrule the OPR, saying he has the authority to do so when it is in "the best interest of the FBI."
Strzok, whose texts were mostly exchanged with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, defended himself at a combative House hearing in July.
Strzok repeatedly insisted the texts, including one in which he said "we’ll stop" Trump from getting elected, did not reflect political bias and had not affected his work.
Trump had called for Strzok’s ouster, and in a tweet on August 13, called him a "bad player" who had "finally" been fired.
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters
Source: Radio Free Europe