Peter Strzok, a longtime agent who once worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, was fired by the FBI after he sent text messages criticizing President Donald Trump to a colleague.
Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team a year ago after the texts were discovered.
Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, said his client was fired late Friday by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.
Goelman said in a statement Monday that Strzok was fired because of political pressure and “to punish Special Agent Strzok for political speech protected by the First Amendment.”
He said the firing “should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”
The Washington Post first reported the development. The FBI’s disciplinary office had recommended a 60-day suspension and a demotion for Strzok, according to the report.
Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok? Blaming Samsung!
Trump has repeatedly criticized Strzok on Twitter.
Strzok worked on FBI investigations into both campaign opponent Hillary Clinton’s use of an email server and potential co-ordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
He was removed from Mueller’s team following the discovery of the derogatory text messages over a period of months that were exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair.
Heated session last month
House Republicans grilled Strzok for hours last month as they argued that the text messages with Page coloured the outcome of the Clinton email investigation and undercut the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Republicans accused Strzok of bias, with one text message receiving considerable attention from right-wing media outlets, an Aug. 8, 2016, text in which Strzok, discussing with Page the prospect of a Trump win, says, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
Strzok told the House committees last month that the text came in response to campaign occurrences such as Trump insulting the immigrant father of a fallen U.S. soldier. Strzok called it “horrible and disgusting behaviour,” and said he was stating his opinion that the electorate would “stop” a candidate like that. He said it was not a declaration that he or the FBI would improperly interfere with the electoral process.
“The suggestion that I and some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this, is astounding to me,” Strzok said in testimony. “It simply couldn’t happen.”
In his prepared remarks before testifying, the agent pointed out that his texts also included jabs directed at Democrats Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Strzok also pointed out that he did not disclose or leak that the Trump campaign was under investigation before voters headed to the polls in 2016.
In a May 2017 text to Page, Strzok described his reluctance to work on behalf of the special counsel. In a text, he seemed to imply he didn’t think there would be substantial findings of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign team.
“I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there,” Strzok said in the text.
The FBI has not commented on the Washington newspaper’s report.
With files from CBC News