By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who came under fire by Republicans for sending text messages that disparaged Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, was dismissed from the bureau late Friday, his attorney said on Monday.
Strzok is the third high-ranking person to be fired from the FBI during the Trump administration, including former director James Comey.
Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said in a statement that FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich made the decision to terminate his client.
The decision, Goelman added, was at odds with a recommendation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which had called for Strzok to face a 60-day suspension and demotion from his supervisory responsibilities.
“The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practise, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters,” Goelman said.
Trump took to Twitter not long after the news broke. “Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI-finally,” he said. “The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & long.”
Goelman said that his client’s firing was politically motivated and that his texts represented political speech protected by the First Amendment.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe after a scathing report by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog concluded he had leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.
Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017 after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein helped pen a memo that was critical of how Comey handled the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Later, however, Trump claimed he fired Comey over that “Russia thing,” apparently referring to the FBI probe into whether his presidential campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion and called the investigation a witch hunt.
Both Comey and McCabe said, however, they believe they were fired because they are key witnesses in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether Trump may have tried to obstruct the investigation.
Strzok was deeply involved in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation and was temporarily assigned to Mueller’s office. He was removed from that post after his texts came to light.
The texts were criticized by the Justice Department’s inspector general in a recent report that examined the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe. Republicans in Congress have repeatedly pointed to them as evidence the FBI is biased against Trump.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)