Some truths here: Mueller already knew the FBI’s Peter Strzok didn’t like President Donald Trump yet still hired him, according to FBI and DOJ sources.
But that has little to do with why Strzok was expelled from the Special Counsel’s team.
Embattled FBI Section Chief Strzok has been labeled in recent days as Trump-hating gigolo who had a salacious sexual affair with a married FBI lawyer and for those reasons he could no longer serve on the investigative team of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Yet that, again, has little to do with the real reasons Mueller sacked FBI’s Strzok, a high ranking section chief, sources in the FBI and DOJ said.
Mueller suspected Strzok of leaking classified details about his team’s FBI raid on Paul Manafort’s house, a story the Washington Post first printed in August, several FBI and DOJ sources confirm.
The Manafort search warrant is a sealed document and not a public record. The Post’s story offered a detailed glimpse of the pre-dawn raid of Manfort’s Virginia home, which rousted Manafort and his wife out of bed.
Within days of the story Mueller concluded the Post offered details only a member of the Special Counsel’s inner circle could have known:
The raid, which occurred without warning on July 26, signaled an aggressive new approach by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team in dealing with a key figure in the Russia inquiry. Manafort has been under increasing pressure as the Mueller team looked into his personal finances and his professional career as a highly paid foreign political consultant.
The search warrant requested documents related to tax, banking and other matters. People familiar with the search said agents departed the Manafort residence with a trove of material, including binders prepared ahead of Manafort’s congressional testimony.
The raid also could have been intended to send a message to Trump’s former campaign chairman that he should not expect gentle treatment or legal courtesies from Mueller’s team members, who already have begun combing through Manafort’s complicated financial past.
Federal sources said Mueller fired Strzok one week after the story appeared in the Washington Post and after conducting an internal probe to isolate the leak.
Mueller may have examined telecommunications of team members, sources said, which would reveal such things as anti-Trump texts and communications with members of the media, including the Washington Post.
Sources confirm Strzok’s removal from the team had very little to do with his anti-Trump texts or his sexual romp with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who works for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Strzok was the FBI’s primary investigator who played a central role in the following cases:
- Interrogated suspects in the Hillary Clinton email investigation including Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills
- Helped craft James Comey’s memo and speech to exonerate Hilly Clinton from criminal wrongdoing
- Was part of the review team handling Huma Abedin’s and Anthony Weiner’s laptop emails and images
- Supervised the Russia probe of Trump and associates for Mueller
- Helped commission the FBI’s hiring of Christopher Steele for the bogus Trump dossier
Strzok has been reassigned to the human resources department of the FBI.
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