Peter Strzok, the former FBI official who sent dozens of text messages disparaging President Donald Trump while investigating his campaign for alleged links with Russia, has filed a lawsuit against the bureau alleging that it caved in to “unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress, and the media” when the decision was made to fire Strzok.
In the lawsuit (pdf), Strzok claims that the FBI had violated his rights to express protected political speech and that the Justice Department (DOJ) had violated his privacy when it shared hundreds of his text messages with reporters.
Strzok, a veteran agent who helped lead FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, came into the national spotlight in January 2018 with FBI lawyer Lisa Page after their text messages became public. Their messages revealed the pair detested Trump and favored Hillary Clinton while working on high-profile investigations in 2016 and 2017 involving both Trump and Clinton.
According to a 2018 report from the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, the investigators expressed concerns that the text messages between Page and Strzok had “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations” but did not find enough evidence to show that the Clinton email server investigation was affected by political bias at the time.
The Epoch Times reported earlier this year that testimony from FBI and DOJ officials suggests that the bureau may have suppressed or ignored a major lead in the Clinton-email investigation. The bureau learned early in the probe that metadata in Clinton’s emails suggests that virtually every email she sent while secretary of state went to a foreign entity. Trump has suggested that this entity is China.
The complaint, which names Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray as defendants, serves as another attempt for him to defend his reputation. Strzok has insisted that his personal views never influenced his work during a tense congressional hearing last year.
The lawsuit claims that Strzok was “taking extraordinary measures to ensure that the existence of the [Russia] investigation remained secret even within the FBI.”
“The existence of that investigation did not become publicly known until after President Trump was elected,” the suit claims, noting that “any public disclosure of the existence of that investigation would likely have been devastating to the Trump presidential campaign.”
But that appears incongruent with facts. The existence of the investigation was widely known before the election as several outlets reported on it using unnamed sources.
In fact, The New York Times flushed out the investigation in detail about a week before Election Day in the Oct. 31, 2016, article “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”
Strzok is seeking to be reinstated to his previous position in the FBI, back pay, a declaration that the government violated his rights, and damages for alleged violation of his privacy rights.
Aitan Goelman, a partner with Zuckerman Spaeder LLP and one of Strzok’s lawyers, told Fox News in a statement that Strzok has been a constant target of “attacks” by the president in the past two years.
“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,” Goelman said.
“The lawsuit shows that, in bowing to the president’s desires, FBI leaders trampled Pete’s free speech and due process rights in ways that should be deeply troubling to all in government, and indeed, to all Americans,” he added.
Many of the texts, on FBI cell phones, showed strong animus against Trump during his 2016 run for office. They were found by the department’s inspector general during its investigation of the FBI’s Clinton email probe.
Some of these text messages include Page asking Strzok while referring to Trump, “He’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
In response, Strzok said, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
Strzok was fired from the FBI in August 2018; Page had left the bureau three months earlier.
According to the lawsuit, the FBI deputy director David Bowdich who fired him was responding to “unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media.” Bowdich has overruled the recommendation of a disciplinary official that Strzok is merely demoted and suspended, and denied him the chance to appeal, the suit says.
Bowdich, who had the authority to overrule disciplinary findings, said at the time that Strzok’s “sustained pattern of bad judgment in the use of an FBI device” called into question decisions made during the Clinton email investigation and the early stages of the Russia probe, the lawsuit says.
Moreover, the lawsuit says the administration discriminated against his viewpoint by firing him even though other government officials who have supported Trump in the workplace have kept their job.
Spokespeople for the FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment to the Associated Press on the filing.
Epoch Times reporter Petr Svab, Ivan Pentchoukov, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.