Anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok declassified documents for Mueller Russia investigation
New internal emails show that anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok demanded to preserve all the powers he held as a deputy assistant director as he agreed to move to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in 2017.
The emails show his superiors agreed and made him a “floating” deputy who could still handle counterintelligence cases and declassify documents as he investigated the Trump campaign for Mr. Mueller.
The emails were obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. President Tom Fitton has emerged as one of Washington’s most aggressively investigators into how the Justice Department and the FBI pursued President Trump.
“The new emails show that Peter Strzok, an anti-Trump partisan, was given special dispensation to keep his ability to declassify documents and exercise other sensitive authorities for the Mueller special counsel operation,” Mr. Fitton told The Washington Times. “Given his record of misconduct, one has to wonder whether he abused these authorities while working for Mueller.”
Mr. Fitton’s weapon is the Freedom of Information Act. When the FBI delays a FOIA request, he files suit in U.S. District Court, which sometimes orders releases or, in this case, hurries the process.
Last month, Judicial Watch obtained heavily censored FBI wiretap applications to spy on the Trump campaign beginning in October 2016. At the time, Mr. Strzok headed the FBI’s probe into any Russia-Trump collusion in hacking Democratic computers.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) petitions showed the FBI relied greatly on the Christopher Steele dossier to convince a judge. It was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic Party, meaning the FBI was relying on opposition research to spy on the other political party.
The wiretap target was volunteer Carter Page. The warrants allowed agents to read his electronic messages, both previous and current, for a year.
Mr. Strzok has become famous as the FBI agent who vented his dislike for President Trump in text messages to his lover, a bureau attorney.
In August 2016, just days after he opened a probe into the Trump campaign, he texted that “we’ll stop” the Republican from becoming president. Right after Mr. Mueller was appointed, Mr. Strzok talked of impeachment.
In congressional testimony last month, he denied that any bias affected his decision making.
Mr. Mueller fired Mr. Strzok after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz presented him with the agent’s messages. At the time, Mr. Horowitz was probing how the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton’s private email handling.
Mr. Horowitz’s report criticized Mr. Strzok for hurriedly opening the Trump probe before completing the Clinton inquiry.
On July 13, 2017, Mr. Strzok sent an email to Bill Priestap, FBI counterintelligence chief, stating he wanted to carry his existing powers to his new Mueller job, especially the authority to declassify information, an option held by few agents.
“I understand the need to fill my position within CD [counterintelligence division], but I’d respectfully request based on mission need that I keep the authorities from my old job,” Mr. Strzok wrote.
Mr. Priestap informed Mr. Strzok a few days later that he got his wish.
“In answer to your initial question, while assigned to the special counsel’s office, you will retain your CD DAD [deputy assistant director] authorities to include declassification authority,” Mr. Priestap said. “Assuming the 7th floor approves, you will remain on CD’s books as a fourth (floating) DAD. When you move on from your DAD position, your DAD slot will revert back …. ”
Mr. Strzok never returned. After just several weeks with Mr. Mueller, the FBI transferred him to a post in human resources and then escorted him from the building this summer.
Judicial Watch’s FOIA request asked for all documents pertaining to Mr. Strzok’s assignment to Mr. Mueller’s team and his ouster. So far, the FBI has only turned over a few emails.
“Mr. Strzok, did you ever consider recusing yourself, since you had such personal disdain for the person you were investigating?” Mr. Strzok was asked at a July House hearing.
“I did not,” he answered.
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