- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- A former FBI official who played a critical role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation also helped relaunch the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email use as secretary of state, according to CNN.
- Peter Strzok, who was removed from Mueller’s team last summer for making disparaging remarks about President Donald Trump, co-wrote the first draft of the letter Comey disclosed to the public just 11 days before the 2016 election.
- Republicans have frequently criticized Strzok for exhibiting anti-Trump bias.
Peter Strzok, the counterintelligence veteran who has been at the center of Republicans’ claims of bias at the FBI against President Donald Trump, also played a key role in the FBI’s decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state, just 11 days before the 2016 election, CNN reported Wednesday.
CNN said Strzok co-wrote the first draft of the letter that former FBI Director James Comey disclosed to the public in October 2016, announcing that the FBI had recovered thousands of Clinton’s emails and, as a result, would relaunch the probe into whether the then-Democratic presidential nominee should be criminally charged.
Democrats, including Clinton, criticized Comey at the time for disclosing the letter so close to the election, arguing that it helped tilt the vote in Trump’s favor.
Clinton had previously been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. In July 2016, Comey announced that the FBI had concluded its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, adding that while investigators found no evidence of legal violations, they did find evidence that Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information.
Coincidentally, Strzok played a key role in the crafting of that statement as well. The original draft of the July 2016 memo said that Clinton “was grossly negligent with respect to the handling of classified information.” But Strzok later changed the memo’s language to say Clinton’s actions were “extremely careless” instead of grossly negligent.
Strzok played a critical role in the Russia probe
- Aaron Bernstein/Reuters
During the same month that the FBI ended its initial investigation into Clinton’s email use, the agency launched a separate investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Strzok was the FBI agent who signed off on that investigation.
But Strzok’s role in the Russia investigation would end about a year later, in August 2017, when the special counsel Robert Mueller removed him from the investigative team following revelations that Strzok made disparaging remarks about Trump in text messages exchanged with FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
When the news of Strzok’s firing surfaced last month, some Republicans called for an investigation into what they characterized as anti-Trump bias at the FBI and the Department of Justice. Those calls intensified when Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the DOJ, said the FBI’s system was not able to preserve thousands of text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page because of a technical glitch with Samsung phones.
“Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok? Blaming Samsung!” Trump tweeted on January 23.
A day later, the DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced that his office had recovered those texts.