FBI Fires Peter Strzok, Political Lightning Rod Who Criticized Trump The embattled former special agent lost his place in the Russia investigation over text messages that criticized then-candidate Trump and has been under a political bull's-eye ever since.

FBI Fires Peter Strzok, Political Lightning Rod Who Criticized Trump

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The FBI has fired a veteran agent who investigated Russia's interference in the 2016 election and then became a target for President Trump. Special Agent Peter Strzok became a lightning rod because of text messages he sent that were critical of the president. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Strzok's dismissal marks the end of a long slide. He'd been taken off the Russia investigation last summer when supervisors became aware of his politically loaded text messages. Two months ago, he was escorted out of the FBI's headquarters. President Trump cheered Strzok's firing with a tweet this afternoon that said, finally. Trump had often criticized the special agent, as in this interview with CBS News last month.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He was a disgrace to our country. He was a disgrace to the FBI. So when I look at things like that - and he led that investigation or whatever you call it.

HORSLEY: Trump has often called the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election a witch hunt, and he points to Strzok's text messages as justification for that charge. Strzok has acknowledged sending messages critical of the president to a former FBI attorney, Lisa Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair. But during a contentious congressional hearing last month, Strzok insisted that had no bearing on the investigation.

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PETER STRZOK: Let me be clear. Unequivocally and under oath, not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.

HORSLEY: Strzok says that goes for both the Russia probe and an earlier investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, a case on which he also worked. Trump today called the FBI's Clinton email probe a sham and said it ought to be reopened.

According to Strzok's attorney, the disciplinary arm of the FBI had recommended only a demotion and a 60-day suspension for the special agent, but the bureau's deputy director decided to fire Strzok instead. His attorney calls the dismissal a response to political pressure and adds the FBI and the American people deserve better. The attorney echoed Strzok's own testimony to Congress last month when he said Russia's election interference had been wildly successful, shaking faith in America's institutions and sowing discord throughout the country.

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STRZOK: Today's hearing is just another victory notch in Putin's belt and another milestone in our enemies' campaign to tear America apart.

HORSLEY: Tonight the FBI issued a statement explaining the decision to fire Strzok as within the deputy director's authority and, quote, "in the best interest of the FBI." Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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