A striking number of leading federal law enforcement officials have been removed from their posts since Donald Trump took office, including acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, and FBI Assistant Director Mike Kortan.Today we learned that the list is still growing.
Peter Strzok, the senior FBI official who helped lead the initial probe of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until it was discovered he sent anti-Trump texts, was fired from the agency on Monday, NBC News has confirmed.
Strzok, a 21-year veteran of the department, had exchanged text messages criticizing President Donald Trump with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he had an affair, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Both worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation and also on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
His ouster comes roughly a month after the Republican-run House Oversight Committee created a 10-hour spectacle with Strzok as the feature attraction. The hearing was, however, a total bust for the White House and its allies: the entire Trump-driven conspiracy theory was predicated on the idea that Strzok worked behind the scenes to undercut the GOP’s presidential ticket and last month’s hearing helped prove the conspiracy theory wrong.
But despite the fact that the congressional sideshow backfired, and despite Strzok’s lengthy and impressive career, his tenure at the FBI came to an abrupt end late last week, done in by some private text messages he sent in 2016 that were critical of Donald Trump (among others).
The Washington Post, which was first to report this news, noted the FBI office “that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension.” According to Strzok’s lawyer, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich nevertheless fired Strzok outside the normal disciplinary process.
Meanwhile, the president, who’s targeted Strzok for months, did a little victory dance on Twitter, using the firing to condemn both Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Justice Department’s examination of Hillary Clinton’s email protocols in 2016.
Between David Bowdich’s unexpected decision and Trump’s public celebration, it’s hardly outrageous to wonder about possible political motivations behind Friday’s decision.