One of special counsel Robert Mueller’s former staff members, who was removed after Mueller learned of his anti-Trump texts with a colleague, is facing a review for the part he played in the investigation into former 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Fox News reported Saturday.
FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election back in the summer, after Mueller learned of the text messages he exchanged with Lisa Page, also a former member of the special counsel’s team. According to two senior Justice Department officials, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is analyzing Strzok’s role in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails, the Trump-Russia probe, and the anti-Trump Russian dossier.
“That’s why the IG is looking into all of those things,” one of the Justice Department officials told Fox News.
Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, said in a statement: “Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel’s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation.”
“Lisa Page completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations,” Carr added.
A Justice Department spokeswoman added: “We are aware of the allegations and are taking any and all appropriate steps,” NPR reported.
President Donald Trump commented on the matter Sunday on Twitter, saying, “Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI ‘agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.’ Led Clinton Email probe. @foxandfriends Clinton money going to wife of another FBI agent in charge.”
“After years of [former FBI Director James] Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters — worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness,” Trump added. “Report: “ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE” Now it all starts to make sense!”
The integrity of Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe and questions surrounding certain members of his team have worried Republicans for months. Federal Election Commission filings indicated back in June that three of Mueller’s team members donated to Democratic groups and presidential campaigns. In particular, Jeannie Rhee donated more than $5,000 to the PAC Hillary for America during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
And now Strzok’s roles in the Russia-related investigations and the probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state are under scrutiny as officials investigate whether his work was compromised.
Fox News reported that House investigators believe Strzok played an important role in the handling of the salacious and unverified Trump dossier, which led to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance of one of Trump’s campaign officials and helped bring the Russia probe to fruition. Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the dossier during the election cycle.
In addition, House Intelligence Committee officials were warned by an informant that “documentary evidence” existed that led them to believe that Strzok may have been obstructing the House’s dossier probe, Fox News reported.
The OIG also is conducting a review of the Justice Department’s and FBI’s actions surrounding the 2016 presidential election.
“The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them,” the OIG told NPR in a statement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also released a statement Saturday, noting that “the allegations that the inspector general has confirmed are part of his ongoing investigation, if proven to be true, would raise serious questions of public trust.”
“I look forward to receiving the inspector general’s report. We will ensure that anyone who works on any investigation in the Department of Justice does so objectively and free from bias or favoritism,” Sessions added.
For its own part, the FBI issued a statement noting that it “holds all of its employees to the highest standards of integrity, independence and professionalism, as the American public rightly expects.”