This summer, ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok filed a lawsuit suggesting
his firing was political retribution for having run the bureau’s counterintelligence
investigation into the now debunked allegations that Donald Trump and Russia
colluded to hijack the 2016 election.
The Justice Department has responded to the lawsuit in a big
way, releasing to the court presiding over the civil case Strzok’s official
misconduct file that concluded the former FBI supervisor exhibited “a gross
lack of professionalism and exceptionally poor judgment.”
It shows the FBI substantiated that Strzok had engaged in
dereliction of duty, had committed misconduct through the expression of anti-Trump
bias on his official FBI phone and committed security violations by performing
official government work on personal email.
The records show one official recommended termination, and
another recommended suspension for 60 days without pay. The bureau leadership chose
the more severe of the two penalties, terminating Strzok last year.
The dereliction of duty citation involved Strzok’s failure, according to the FBI, to quickly follow up in fall 2016 after the belated discovery of a trove of Hillary Clinton emails on a laptop belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Strzok was supervising the investigation of whether Clinton’s use of personal email for classified State Department matters created a security risk, and his failure caused an unnecessary delay to evaluate the new evidence just weeks before Election Day, the FBI concluded.
The disciplinary file included testimony from one of Strzok’s
colleagues, a fellow agent, about the failure to respond to the discovery of
emails. “The crickets I was hearing was making me uncomfortable because something
was going to come crashing down,” the agent testified. “….I still to this day
don’t understand what the hell went wrong.”
The agent testified he feared “somebody was not acting appropriately,
somebody was trying to bury this” discovery of new Clinton email evidence, the
Strzok offered a bevy of excuses for his inaction, including
he was busy working the Trump-Russia case at the time. All were rejected. “The
investigation reveals that there is no reasonable excuse for the FBI’s delay in
following up on this matter,” the disciplinary file concluded.
The FBI also cited Strzok for a violation of security
protocols for conducting bureau business on personal email and personal devices,
putting his sensitive counterintelligence work at risk of compromise.
“The investigation uncovered numerous occasions in which you
used your personal email account,” the final findings concluded.
But the disciplinary letter to Strzok that preceded his
firing saved its harshest words for his expression of anti-Trump bias in
official government text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page while they were
having an affair.
The disciplinary file shows the FBI believed Strzok’s
political statements on his official government phone while overseeing the Russia
collusion and Clinton email probe may have caused the bureau its most lasting damage.
The letter cited pages of the most egregious texts where
Strzok and Page railed against Trump and even suggested they would use their
powers to have “an insurance policy” or to “stop him” from becoming president.
“Your excessive, repeated and politically charged text messages,
while you were assigned as the lead case agent on the FBI’s two biggest and
most politically sensitive investigations in decades, demonstrated a gross lack
of professionalism and exceptionally poor judgment,” the FBI wrote Strzok.
“Your misconduct cast a pall over the FBI’s Clinton email
and Russia investigations and the work of the Special Counsel. The immeasurable
harm done to the reputation of the FBI will not be easily overcome,” the letter