For several years, Peter Strzok was one of the faceless people protecting the security of the United States from domestic and international threats. That was until 2016 when he led a team of a dozen investigators during the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton.
That investigation effectively contributed to Hillary’s loss in the 2016 Presidential Election and brought him into public consciousness. But it was the 2017 Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller into circumstances surrounding the election that really made Peter Strzok a nationally and internationally recognized name and ended his career at the FBI at 22 years of service.
He Helped Create the Public Statement About the Clinton Investigation
By the time the tumultuous 2016 Presidential election came around, Peter Strzok had risen to one of the positions in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was the Chief of the Counterespionage Section, a role he assumed in 2015. While serving in the role, he got entangled in the first domino that would lead to his eventual exit from the FBI.
When the FBI opened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, Strzok led the team of investigators. Aside from heading the work in the background, he also worked with the then-FBI director, James Comey, to draft the public statements announcing the investigation.
He notably changed the description of Clinton’s action in the draft, from ‘grossly negligent’ to ‘extremely careless’. Although it seems like a clear and simple choice of words, the former is considered a criminal offence. The draft underwent several changes with contributions from different members of the FBI before ultimately making its way to the public. Strzok’s notable change remained, and the case was shelved.
Following the discovery of additional emails during the investigation a few days to the election, Peter Strzok supported the reopening of the Clinton investigation. In his capacity as Chief of the Counterespionage Section, he also co-wrote the letter used by James Comey to inform Congress of the change in decision.
While the FBI found nothing criminally negligent after completing its investigation, the decision to reopen the case led to the email controversy that played a role in derailing Hilly Clinton’s campaign. The decision has been heralded in many circles as the moment Clinton lost the 2016 Presidential Election.
Peter Strzok Became a Critical Investigator into Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Elections
Had Peter stayed out of the FBI’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 United States Elections, perhaps he might still have a job at the Bureau today. But that was not the case. He rose to the rank of Deputy Assistant Director in the Counterintelligence Division, becoming the number two ranked official for investigations involving Russia.
As Deputy Assistant Director, he led the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential elections. His team investigated the famed Donald Trump – Russia dossier, political opposition research by counterintelligence specialist, Christopher Steele.
The dossier contained allegations of conspiracy, misconduct and co-operation between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russia. His investigation also covered Russia’s role in the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak. In his capacity as lead investigator, he oversaw the Bureau’s interviews with then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. This interview eventually led to Flynn’s conviction for making false statements to the FBI.
Based on his knowledge and experience working on the Russian investigation, Robert Mueller appointed him in July 2017 as part of his 16-member team in the Special Counsel investigation. He was the most senior FBI agent in the team, but he did not last in the role and was relocated to the Human Resources Branch in August 2017.
Personal Text Messages Shared with a Colleague Forced His Exit from the Special Counsel Team
Leading up to his role in Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation team, Peter Strzok was a highly regarded FBI agent. He was considered one of the most experienced, trusted FBI counterintelligence investigators and one of the Bureau’s top experts on Russia.
However, that reputation became questionable when he left the Special Counsel team in late July 2017 following the discovery of personal text messages shared with a colleague. The text messages were discovered following an inquiry by the Justice Department’s Inspector General based on requests by Congress Republicans.
The scope of the IG’s inquiry covered how the FBI handled investigations related to the election. It revealed that Peter, using FBI-issued cell phones, had shared texts with Lisa Page, a trial attorney on Mueller’s team.
The messages, sent between August 15, 2015, and December 1, 2016, revealed disparaging comments about then-candidate, Donald Trump. They also made similar comments about Chelsea Clinton, Eric Holder, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, a former Democratic Governor.
In August 2015, Peter Strzok called Donald Trump ‘an idiot’. In March 2016, one of his texts after a Republican debate said he hoped Hillary wins by 100 million votes to 0. A particularly damning text exchanged between Peter and Lisa showed the FBI agents harbored strong disapproval of Donald Trump as a potential US President.
In the exchange, Lisa asked if Trump is ever going to become president, and Peter responded, ‘No. No, he won’t. We’ll stop it.’ Having personal political opinions is not against FBI rules. And his colleagues claimed he has never shown any political bias. Still, Strzok was removed from the Russia investigation to protect its integrity.
The Report by the Inspector General led to Peter Strzok’s Complete Exit from the FBI
Despite his removal from the Russian investigation, the inquiry of the Justice Department’s Inspector General ultimately ended Peter Strzok’s FBI career. The June 14, 2018 report criticized the text messages for creating the appearance of partiality and impropriety.
Even though it concluded that there was no evidence of bias in the FBI’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton, the Bureau opted to fire him. The decision overruled recommendation from the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility to demote and suspend him for 60 days.
He was escorted out of the FBI headquarters on June 15, 2018. By the 21st, then-Attorney General confirmed he had lost his security clearance. Peter was officially fired on August 10, 2018, by the FBI Deputy Director, David L. Bowdich, after twenty-two years of active service in the Bureau.
He Filed a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Against the FBI and the DOJ
On August 6, 2019, Peter Strzok and his legal team filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the FBI. In the suit, he asked to be reinstated and awarded back pay. In his case, he argued that his termination was based on unrelenting pressure from Trump and Republicans rather than the content and impact of his private text messages.
The suit also argued that the termination violated his First Amendment right, which protected political speech. He further claimed that while he had been fired, Trump and his administration consistently tolerated and encouraged partisan speech from other federal employees, especially when they lauded the president and rebuked his opponents.
As of October 2020, the case had yet to reach a conclusive end. The DOJ requested for summary judgement and outright dismissal of the suit. However, on September 25, a federal judge denied the motion for dismissal and allowed the case to proceed to trial.
As part of his fight to get back into the Bureau, friends of the former FBI Special Agent created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his lost income and legal costs. As of August 2018, the fund had raised $453,213 and has since ended. It initially sought to raise $150,000 but increased it to $500,000 after raising more than $325,000 in one day.
— Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) September 9, 2020
Since his termination, Peter Strzok has also written a book, Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald K. Trump. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2020 and covered his career in the FBI, especially in counterintelligence.
Before 2016, Peter Strzok was the Lead Agent in Operation Ghost Stories
Long before his career and reputation went through the mud between 2016 and 2018, Peter Strzok led an impressive career with the FBI. Born in Michigan, United States, at Kincheloe AFB Hospital, he is the son of Peter Paul Strzok and Virginia Sue Harris.
His father worked as a member of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. His Uncle, Father James Strzok is a Jesuit Priest who is on missionary duty in Africa. Peter Strzok completed his basic education at St. John’s Preparatory School in Minnesota before acquiring his Bachelor and Master’s degree from Georgetown University in 1991 and 2013, respectively.
After his graduation, Strzok enrolled in the United States Army where he served as an officer. Later, he joined the FBI in 1996 as an intelligence research specialist after leaving the Army. As a career employee in the FBI, he worked his way to the top of the Bureau in over two decades.
During his impressive climb, he was the leader of the team that investigated the Russian spy couple, Andrey Bezrukov and Yelena Vavilova. He was a lead agent in the investigation, titled Operation Ghost Stories, focused on a network of Russian sleeper agents in the United States.
He was particularly instrumental in the arrest of the spy couple, Andrey Bezrukov and Yelena Vavilova, who were part of the Illegals Program. The investigation and program informed the popular FX award-winning TV show, The Americans.
Despite His Publicized Affair, Peter Remains Married to Melissa Hodgman
One of the consequences of Peter Strzok’s unceremonious exit from the FBI was the revelation of his affair with Lisa Page, a trial attorney. Many expected the affair to lead to the end of his marriage. Peter had been married to Melissa Hodgman since 1994.
They met and started dating at Georgetown University. Since they began their relationship, the couple has given birth to three children, and live in Fairfax, Virginia, where they bought a home for $520,000 in June 2003. Like Peter, Hodgman also has an extensive career in public service.
She works as an associate director at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. She joined the federal body in 2008 as a staff attorney in the enforcement division before receiving a promotion in 2012 to assistant director. Melissa was born on February 12, 1968, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in foreign service before earning her J.D at Georgetown.
She reportedly learned of the now-infamous affair in 2017 after gaining access to his phone. And being an accomplished woman with a thriving career, Melissa was expected to leave Peter after. However, that has not been the case, and the couple remains together to date.
But that is not to say it was a walk in the park for the couple. In court documents from the DOJ’s defense during a hearing for his wrongful termination lawsuit, after learning of their affair, Melissa threatened to expose the affair after finding a hotel reservation document as evidence. Hodgman also threatened to send all the information to Page’s partner and hire a private investigator.
It is unclear if she carried out the threat. But seeing as the couple remains together, it appears they got over their marital troubles.
Peter and Lisa Page Had a Brief Affair Before Joining the Russia Investigation
The widespread presumption is that Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were two lovers who colluded in the investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign, before and after the election. However, according to the book, Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law, that is not necessarily true.
While they did date and had an affair, it was over by the time they joined Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation. However, they did stay friends, resulting in the text exchange that got them fired from the FBI. As for the details about the affair’s timeline itself, a lot remains unknown.
Piecing bits from various reports together about the affair shows Peter and Lisa Page likely had their affair before 2016. And while the affair itself remains shrouded in mystery; its fallout has occurred in public view. Both Strzok and Lisa have also come under repeated attacks from the US president, Donald Trump.
Perhaps most significant is the fact the affair was a subject of heated debate on the US Congress floor during his Congressional hearing on July 12, 2018. While receiving questions from House Representatives for his role in the Russian investigation, he got into a heated exchange with Texas Republican Congressman, Louie Gohmert over the affair.
On a more personal level, Lisa Page also filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the DOJ, and her case has been merged with Peter Strzok’s by the court. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Page admitted regretting the affair and went on to say it is the wrongest thing she has done in her life.