Lawmakers Interview FBI Agent Who Sent Anti-Trump Texts

Jun 27, 2018
Originally published on June 27, 2018 11:19 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The FBI agent who was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation for sending anti-Trump text messages is going to be on Capitol Hill today. Peter Strzok is scheduled to sit down for an interview with House lawmakers. NPR's Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department, and he's here with us.

Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So Peter Strzok is a name that I've heard you mention many times in recent months in your reporting. Just quickly remind us who he is and why he matters here.

LUCAS: So Peter Strzok as a longtime FBI guy, rose up to be one of the senior counterintelligence officials at the bureau. And in that role, he helped lead two of the FBI's biggest cases in recent memory. That would be the probe into Hillary Clinton's personal email server and the investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Now, Strzok was selected to lead these investigations, FBI officials have said, because he was one of the most highly regarded counterintelligence investigators at the FBI. The public, of course, didn't know about Strzok until it emerged that Mueller had removed him from the Russia investigative team, and that was in the summer of 2017. And it turned out that Strzok was removed because of these politically charged text messages that he had exchanged with an FBI lawyer by the name of Lisa Page, who had also been on the on the Russia team. Now, the two had been having an extramarital affair. Those texts, of course, have become a really key part of the political battle that is going on around the Russia probe.

GREENE: Yeah. So, I mean, he was very central in - I mean, he's just one person, but feeding this larger narrative from President Trump and his allies that the FBI is biased against him, which has been a narrative for months. So I guess I wonder, what is the timing here? Why is he coming to the Hill now, today?

LUCAS: Well, the Justice Department's inspector general released his big report on the FBI's handling of the Clinton investigation a few weeks ago. And in that report, the IG chastises Strzok over those text messages, including one in which he says that Trump won't become president and says, we'll stop it. Now, the IG says that that sort of text suggested that Strzok might have been willing to take action to impact the election, and Strzok, of course, told the inspector general that he was just trying to comfort Lisa Page and reassure her that Trump wouldn't win. But that text and others, which you also referenced, too - these really are a crucial aspect of the president and his allies' allegations of this grand conspiracy by senior FBI officials, including Strzok and former director James Comey, against Trump. And Democrats, of course, say that those claims are absurd and that Republicans are just trying to sow doubts about the Mueller investigation and to protect the president.

GREENE: Well, is all of this going to be coming up in the meetings today? And if so, could whatever his answers are somehow affect the Mueller investigation?

LUCAS: Well, in terms of what we expect today, it's going to be a very long day for Agent Strzok. This - he's talking to lawmakers from the House judiciary and oversight committees. Both of those committees have some of the most vocal supporters of the president's. Strzok originally volunteered to come in for an interview. The committee then decided to subpoena him. That gives you a sense of kind of the tone around this. Strzok will be in the room with his counsel and likely counsel from the FBI, as well, so he'll get pressed on the Clinton investigation, on the Russia investigation. Now, as for what this means for the Mueller investigation, again, this just feeds into this long-running Republican narrative of questions about the integrity of the FBI and the credibility of the Mueller investigation.

GREENE: NPR's Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for us. Ryan, thanks a lot.

LUCAS: Thank you.

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