The Russia probe as led by Robert Mueller may be complete, but it sure as anything continues to hang heavily over the present U.S. political landscape. Now, currently former FBI agent Peter Strzok has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s Justice Department alleging that his First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated in connection to his high-profile dismissal from the agency last year, which unfolded as President Donald Trump and allies hammered his role in creating the Russia investigation. The most often stated reason for his dismissal was critical texts he wrote throughout the 2016 election cycle targeting Trump, but Strzok says that these are protected “free speech,” and is demanding reinstatement and back pay.
Besides these issues, the former high-ranking agent says that in failing to provide him with “due process” surrounding his dismissal, his Fifth Amendment rights were violated, and he adds in the new lawsuit that the government allegedly violated the Privacy Act by leaking those texts to the media before even Congress got to look at them.
As the story goes, the FBI’s internal Office of Professional Responsibility didn’t even recommend that Strzok be fired following a review of his case, although they did cite some issues and recommend a demotion and temporary suspension. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich is the one who butted in and fired Strzok, overruling the recommendation from that long in-place office.
Bowdich’s appointment to that position after years of service in the FBI was the work of FBI Director Christopher Wray and not Trump himself, but in his new lawsuit, Strzok also points to the pressure that Trump has exerted on federal justice authorities to conduct themselves in line with his wishes, period. Supporting this idea, it’s even unclear what “specific bureau policies Strzok violated in sending the messages,” POLITICO notes. Who signed off on those texts of Strzok’s getting released to the media remains to be seen.
Since January 2018, Trump has proven seemingly obsessed with Strzok, tweeting about him nearly two dozen times besides plenty of in-person remarks like the 2018 accusation that the now former agent had committed “treason” because he dared oppose Trump on a personal level. To be clear — treason, defined loosely as aiding enemies of the United States during war time, is a capital offense. Trump is suggesting that his political opponents be executed and has continued to imply as much even after concerned interests pointed out to him the implications of what he’s been saying.
A report from the inspector general’s office overseeing the Justice Department concluded that Strzok showed no bias that affected the course of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which he also helped lead. A report from the same office covering the Russia probe is forthcoming.
No matter the facts, Trump has kept his harsh antagonism of the Russia investigation going strong for some time. He has consistently decried the scandal as a “hoax,” and literally laughed off a question about it while sitting right next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. His failure to lead comes as the threat of Russian election interference continues ahead of 2020.
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