Strzok, who initiated the FBI’s probe into the Donald Trump election campaign’s suspected - and now disproven - collusion with the Russian government in the 2016 election, was fired last August after incendiary messages between him and another FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, were leaked to the press, and in which he showed a clear anti-Trump and anti-Russian bias.
Now, Strzok is seeking to right that wrong, arguing in a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday that the bureau violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights when it fired him for the political content of his text messages and deprived him of due process to challenge his termination.
According to Strzok, the bureau’s decision to fire him instead of suspending and demoting him, as the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended, “was the result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media.”
Strzok’s lawyer: “The lawsuit shows that, in bowing to the president’s desires, FBI leaders trampled Pete’s free speech and due process rights in ways that should be deeply troubling to all in government, and indeed, to all Americans.” pic.twitter.com/hfC5LbFaQL— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 6, 2019
In June of that year, Trump told reporters he was “amazed” Strzok still had a job and said he “should have been fired a long time ago.”
The texts in question were given to the press by the Justice Department in December 2017, being published even before Congress had seen them, which Strzok argues was a “deliberate and unlawful” violation of the Privacy Act. In them, he and Page, with whom he was having an affair, disparaged Trump as a “menace” he was “meant to protect America from.”
In the most explosive exchange, Page asked Strzok if he thought Trump could actually win the November 2016 election. "No. No he won't,” Strzok reassured her. “We'll stop it."
When Strzok was terminated, his August 9, 2018, dismissal letter said he had undermined “the credibility of the FBI” by his actions, which included the published texts but also “unprofessional conduct off duty” associated with his use of an FBI-issued cell phone to send the texts and “investigative deficiency” - later reduced to “dereliction of supervisory duty” - because of his delay in searching the laptop of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband, Anthony Weiner, as part of an investigation into the presidential candidate’s emails in the fall of 2016, Politico reported.
However, Strzok argues that since the bureau never accused him of violating the Hatch Act - a law that bars government officials from engaging in certain political activities - his speech in the texts was therefore protected.
Officials should “be encouraged to exercise” their right to political speech “fully, freely, and without fear of penalty or reprisal,” Strzok argues. The administration, according to the suit, “has consistently tolerated and even encouraged partisan political speech by federal employees, as long as this speech praises President Trump and attacks his political adversaries.”