By Jan Wolfe
(Reuters) – Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who came under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump and other Republicans for sending text messages that disparaged Trump during the presidential campaign, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging his termination from the job violated his constitutional rights.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington, alleged that Strzok’s termination from the intelligence agency last year was a “retaliatory response” to speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Strzok said in the lawsuit, filed against the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department, that he was entitled to backpay and reinstatement.
“It’s indisputable that his termination was a result of President Trump’s unrelenting retaliatory campaign of false information, attacks and direct appeals to top officials,” Aitan Goelman, a lawyer for Strzok, said in a statement.
“Today, Pete Strzok is fighting back, and sending a message that the Administration’s purposeful disregard for constitutional rights must not be tolerated,” Goelman added.
Strzok wrote politically charged texts to FBI lawyer Lisa Page when they were both working on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Strzok and Page had also previously worked on the investigation into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In one email from August 2016, Page wrote to Strzok asking “(Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right? Right!”
Strzok replied: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Strzok and Page, who were having an affair, became a focal point of efforts by Republican Party leaders to undermine the credibility of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Trump has tweeted about Strzok several times in the last two years, calling him a “sick loser” and even accusing him of “treason.”
A 500-page report released in June by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, was highly critical of Strzok and Page, finding their texts cast a cloud over the FBI and created the appearance of bias.
Goelman said at the time that the report, while flawed in some conclusions, found no evidence that his political views had an impact on the Clinton probe.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Susan Thomas)