FBI fires Peter Strzok over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired Peter Strzok over anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with his lover during the 2016 presidential campaign, Strzok's lawyer Aitan Goelman confirmed Monday.

Strzok, who led the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, was fired on Friday on the orders of FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich, Goelman said. The decision overruled a previous decision from the FBI's office of professional responsibility that found Strzok should face a demotion and 60-day suspension.

"This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans," Goelman said in a statement Monday. Goelman accused Bowdich of bowing to political pressure and said the firing was not based "on a fair and independent examination of the facts."

The FBI has also confirmed the firing of Strzok.

"Mr. Strzok was subject to the standard FBI review and disciplinary process after conduct highlighted in the IG (inspector general) report was referred to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility," the agency said in a statement to CNBC.

The FBI issued its decision to fire Strzok after reviewing the investigative materials and the responses of Strzok and his counsel, the statement said.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to celebrate the news, and speculated about whether special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe will be "dropped." Mueller removed Strzok from his team in the summer of 2017 after he became aware of the text messages.

"Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI - finally," the president wrote Monday. "The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction - I just fight back!"

Strzok has been a target of withering criticism since text messages he exchanged with FBI lawyer Lisa Page became public. In thousands of messages, Strzok and Page disparage the president and other political figures.

In one exchange, Page asked Strzok: "Trump's not ever going to be president, right? Right?!"

In response, Strzok wrote, "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."

That text exchange was one of 40,000 reviewed by the Justice Department's inspector general in the course of its review of the investigation into former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton's private email server. Strzok played a senior role on the Clinton email investigation.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok testifies on FBI and Department of Justice actions during the 2016 Presidential election during a House Joint committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, July 12, 2018.

The inspector general's report, made public in June, found that there was no evidence that Strzok took any action in that inquiry as a result of political bias. The text messages, however, "cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation," the inspector general concluded.

Trump called for the email investigation to be "properly redone" in a Monday post on Twitter.

The president and a number of Republican lawmakers have seized on the texts to discredit Mueller's Russia probe, which the president has referred to as the "Rigged Witch Hunt headed by Strzok!"

Strzok appeared before Congress in July and defended his actions in the face of a a raucous grilling from lawmakers.

"Not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took," Strzok said at the time.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress after the inspector general's report was published that the FBI would "hold accountable any employee for potential misconduct" and said that the matter had been referred to the office of professional responsibility.

"We are going to adhere to the disciplinary process that that office has, fairly but without delay" Wray said during a June hearing before the the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Once all the steps in the process are complete we will not hesitate to hold people accountable."

Click to show more