On Same Day Peter Strzok Sues for His Termination, Judicial Watch Releases Mostly Redacted List of FBI Leakers

Peter Strzok is suing the Attorney General, FBI Director, and DOJ for his termination, arguing two key things. First, the government overrode the decision of OPR Assistant Director Candice Will, who should have been the “deciding official.” He’a also arguing that the decision came as a result of relentless pressure from the President and with evidence of bias.

To demonstrate bias, Strzok notes that Trump has not responded even when people — he points to Kellyanne Conway but notes she’s just one of numerous examples — who has been found to violate the Hatch Act.

The Trump Administration 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. For example, President Trump rejected the recommendation of his own Office of Special Counsel that advisor Kellyanne Conway be removed from her job for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act by attacking former Vice President Biden and publicly advocating for and against various U.S. Senate candidates. When asked about the OSC’s recommendation, Mrs. Conway responded “blah, blah, blah…If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

But he also claims that “no actions have been taken” against the FBI Agents who showed bias against Hillary Clinton during the election, not even those who leaked negative information about her.

During the Trump Administration this viewpoint discrimination has infected the FBI as well. While Special Agent Strzok and others who expressed negative opinions of President Trump have been subject to administrative punishments of various degrees of severity, no actions have been taken against agents who expressed harsh criticism of Secretary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, or those in the New York Field Office who leaked negative information about Secretary Clinton to the Trump campaign in the weeks before the election.

I’ve long noted that if Democrats asked DOJ Inspector General for an investigation specifically focused on bias against Hillary Clinton, it would elicit a specific report, which would make it very clear Trump was — if anything — treated better by the FBI than Hillary was.

That’s a failure of the Democrats in Congress.

That said, today Judicial Watch released the results of a FOIA (they often sit on releasing FOIAs for political gain) into the results of FBI OPR investigations of Agents who leak information, hoping to focus attention on Andrew McCabe’s termination.

The FOIA makes it clear that Jeff Sessions made the decision to fire McCabe. (Strzok’s suit notes that Deputy Director David Bowdich — McCabe’s replacement — made the decision to fire Strzok.)

The FOIA shows there were just 14 referrals to OPR for leaking, a number of which would be too early for anything coming out of an investigation into NY Field Office leaking. Those referrals include the leaking of Grand Jury, law enforcement sensitive, or classified information (4.9) and leaking of sensitive information, which is what McCabe got fired for (4.10).

The only other people who were fired like McCabe were also referred for lack of candor, not under oath and/or under oath.

That says, even if any of the behavior parallel to Strzok’s did get referred, no one was fired unless they lied (and he did not lie).

At the very least, Strzok’s claim that no one from NY Field Office has been similarly treated as he has may get him to discovery. And that may, in turn, do what the Democrats have not done: show that there was far more bias and leaking against Hillary, but that none of those people have been chased out of the FBI.

38 replies
  1. Savage Librarian says:

    Glad to hear this. It is very unsettling, though, that Congessional Dems failed to investigate. How on earth could they have messed that up so much!!??!!

    • Bunny says:

      The only reason I can think of is that they don’t want to (further) complicate the image, perception, and reputation of the FBI/intelligence community at such a critical moment. Investigating the agents in the NY field office could sow more doubt in the minds of those who already are skeptical of the FBI’s credibility.

      [Welcome to emptywheel. Please consider modifying your username for future comments to something more unique as we have several community members whose names are variants on ‘bunny’. Who knew ‘bunny’ was so popular? Thanks. /~Rayne]

  2. Terrence Sawyer says:

    I’d love to see a tell all from the worker bees in the Mueller team. Peter Strozk are you listening? I’m sure the media would reward you greatly.

  3. Marinela says:

    Always thought that Peter S. firing was unjust. Thank you for the post.

    Typically, the FBI leans conservative, I was told, so Trump claiming FBI was biased against him is pure projection.

    Peter S. firing is a lose for the FBI department, he was a very capable FBI agent, with many years of experience.
    Trump wants all experience replaced by “enablers”, doesn’t matter if they are grossly incapable.

  4. orionATL says:

    it’s not relevant to this particular post but my impression is that Peter strzok was one of the fbi’s top counter-intelligence agents. at some point very early in trump’s presidency (or maybe during the interregnum) he was interacting with the white house.

    i’ve wondered if the firings of strzok, ohr, and mccabe were about their stated “misconduct” or if that misconduct were merely an acceptable public excuse for getting rid of three highly-experienced individuals who posed a serious threat to our president’s hidden criminal activities.

    • Rayne says:

      Bingo. That’s exactly why these people were both on the job and harassed for their work on investigations into Russian interference.

      Strozk had worked in counterespionage – in particular on the Illegals Program.
      Ohr was responsible for yanking Deripaska’s visa more than a decade ago.
      McCabe had worked at one point in the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, which surely must had some overlap with Russian organized crime.

      Its not just that they posed a threat to Trump’s unlawful behavior but that they were a threat to Russian criminal behavior in the U.S. — this was payback as well as obstruction.

      • posaune says:

        I might be wrong on this, but wasn’t Strozk one of the two FBI agents who first interviewed Flynn? (January 2017)?

        • Rayne says:

          That’s one of the factors Trumpists use to rationalize Strozk’s termination — that he was one of Flynn’s interviewers and he’d allegedly denied Flynn legal counsel.

          But if you look at the entirety of Strozk’s career, there are other reasons why a crooked White House propped up by Putin would want Strozk gone and they aren’t going to spell this out for public consumption. They’ll continue to spout about Strozk’s ‘political bias’ and his relationship with a co-worker.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Reminds me of the top lawyer for a tech company I once knew. Ordinarily a thoughtful, economical, and conscientious guy and a distance runner, he thought it would be a good idea to negotiate a new CEO’s employment contract.

            He differed with the CEO over his performance targets and compensation package. The board hired him and gave him what he wanted. That included a new head lawyer. He promptly sold the company to a bigger fish.

            That’s also a fable about the difference between running a company as a going concern and strip mining it for personal gain. The latter is as contagious as typhoid fever.

            • rip says:

              Are you intimating that djt (and repuglicon enablers) are strip-mining the US government for personal gain.
              Picture: swoon
              Of course we have records of raygun downsizing govt (NOT), romney/bain hollowing out whole industries.

        • orionATL says:

          thanks posaune – and rayne-

          that was the early connection strzok had with trump that I was looking for but could not bring to mind. i did not remember it was flynn + strzok, which to my mind justifies hard questions about trump’s later attack on strozak for bias. maybe strzok’s suit will shake loose some more interesting information if the court permits it to proceed.

          the doj ig did an investigation and report on matters that included some ny-based fbi leaking fbi information on candidate clinton to the media, but as i recall there was some delay with that part of his report.

          anyhoo here’s adam serwer:


      • orionATL says:

        we might as well toss in british counter-intelligence expert christopher steele as another in this group targeted by fearful trump-protecting Republican operatives – both in congress and without.

        ohr and Steele had a long-time working relationship on international organized crime. anyone who knows anything about government organizations knows that these informal networks are precisely how things get done; following formal channels takes forever and a day.

        • Rayne says:

          Yup, especially when you take into consideration Steele’s earlier work on FIFA corruption. Must have cost somebody some big money.

      • P J Evans says:

        And Tr*mp has a long memory for people who get in his way: he’ll get revenge any way he can.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        McCabe’s book says he began his FBI career by investigating Russian organized crime, and that he worked in that area for years. Later in the book, and just like Comey, he uses the behaviour of mobsters as a tool to understand how Trump & Entourage work.

  5. Theresa N. says:

    My 1st instinct upon hearing of Strzok’s lawsuit was YEA! I hope he wins!!!! His firing was absolutely political and was a direct result of Individual1’s need to punish anyone associated with Mueller. That said, we ALL know his texts showed horrendous judgement, but he knows that more than anyone. It may be that he’s just had bad luck at a time where we are living in an alternate universe. In any other time, he would have been reprimanded and/or demoted but would have kept his job and especially would never have lost his retirement. I’ve never believed he had any intent to derail the election. He was voicing his private opinion of the hypernarcissistic sociopath piece of garbage that is currently sullying the WH, but it should not been voiced on FBI devices.

    • William Bennett says:

      > we ALL know his texts showed horrendous judgement

      Guess I feel the need to point out that there’s some cognitive tension between the things people are saying about his investigative credentials on the one hand and his behavior in the sphere of text messages and extramarital girlfriends who are coworkers on the other. Crosses about eight lanes of stupid, from putting personal stuff out in that medium at all, and even worse if you’re involved in high level investigative work and are supposed to know something about this stuff, and even worse worse if you’re up against some of the skeeziest operators in the world, in the lands of money laundering, Russian ops, high end electoral politics, just to name a few. I find it hard to reconcile those things.

      AND…. this kind of stupidity pisses me off, analogous to when that stupid Monica thing came out about Clinton: we’re desperately trying to keep our country from going to shit, and these goddamned idiots on the front lines act like they have no clue what a serious matter that is, and worse, no clue how vicious are the people who are out to get them. You don’t get to make these kinds of idiot mistakes when you’re on that kind of chessboard. I’m pissed at the ratfuckers, but I’m even more pissed off at idiots who leave these kinds of openings for the ratfuckers to exploit.

      • bmaz says:

        Meh, I am ambivalent on this. Bad judgment? Sure. But adult humans have affairs, including often at work, and talk amongst themselves every day. It happens. Were they saying anything different than all kinds of people across the country at the time? No. And that includes many Republican politicians and voters, like Lindsey Graham (obviously he has changed his tune now, but that is what he was saying then).

        The only real question is did it affect their work and investigation as to quality or fairness? And the answer appears to be no, it did not.

      • Democritus says:

        His lackadaisical attitude when doing things that would endangers his clearance is what I find frustrating. Yeah, people are human, but my guess is he thought it was easier to hide his messages to his girlfriend on his work blackberry since his wife wouldn’t have access. But he should have been using his tradecraft or whatever the secret squirrels are calling it.

        I mean I know some ex sf guys and they wouldn’t have been caught up like that, he had the knowledge and tools to fuck up in new and smarter ways.

        Either way, I hope he wins his lawsuit and I still applaud his courage to at least standup when things where going to shit. We will need more patriots like him to do so, if only to slow the roll down of Trumps state of hate with malicious compliance.

      • Rayne says:

        These federal personnel are human beings. They act like humans. They were indulging in human chatter about relationships, likes and dislikes sparing neither GOP or Dem — not running a child porn server on federal servers or something truly egregious.

        You know what bothers me about observations like yours and others across the right-wing community who get all choked up (“how dare they have personal conversations in the work place!”) That they thought Trump was an idiot who wouldn’t be elected, not because of anything they did but because the public would surely have seen this, too.

        It bothers me these federal law enforcement personnel trusted the system in which they worked to protect the country. It bothers me that they also trusted their fellow Americans not to be so ignorant and xenophobic to vote for Trump. It bothers me they didn’t see what it was the Russians were doing with social media influence campaigns — and possibly state election infrastructure — until it was too late. The entire system failed due to holes and blindspots in the worldview on which it had been built, not because it consists of humans who indulge in personal chatter on the job.

        Strozk was competent. He was part of the team that brought down the Russian sleeper cells in 2010. But the Russians clearly switched gears after that and used means and methods our entire intelligence apparatus wasn’t prepared to confront. And Trump was part of that apparatus.

        If Strozk failed it was his naive belief that Trump was simply a bigoted idiot and not an utter and complete traitorous sell-out to Russia. Chalk that up to being human.

      • JKSF says:

        Perfect hindsight. Look, these guys were three of the most powerful people within the FBI. They were chief investigators protected by the bureau, and had no concern about being hauled up on political bullshit or legal technicalities. Perhaps they should have been more careful not to expose themselves to the ratfuckers, but people in their positions had not been ratfucked before. They would have had to anticipate Trump’s victory and the subsequent dismantling of the normal order within the FBI. Should they have been this prescient? Maybe, but it is not surprising that they were not.

    • rip says:

      This is such an adult conversation about things that happen. There are normal lane changes and there are whole brain-farts like the dump experiences almost every day (hour?). DILLIGAS about an FBI agents texts/extra-marital affairs?

  6. Pragmatic Progressive says:

    The 5th amendment claim has a lot more meat on the bones than the 1st amendment claim. If the facts are true- Strozk was denied the opportunity to invoke the discretion of Bowdich. It would be like going into court to dispute a speeding ticket and getting penalized from a judge that wasn’t even in the court when you put on your defense…That said, the violation could theoretically be remediated by reinstating Strozk retroactively and issuing a revised disciplinary proposal. Also, the suit contains facts sufficient to support a common law breach of contract claim; i.e. that Strozk entered into a last chance agreement which the DOJ breached. The suit however, does not actually charge breach of contract. Without seeing the contract (last chance agreement), I can only speculate why.

    Keep in mind that the MSPB is in ruins courtesy of 45. See: https://www.fedweek.com/fedweek/no-action-on-nominees-as-senate-takes-recess/

    • Democritus says:

      MSPB- “The federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) exists to protect the rights of federal civil service employees. The MSPB is designed to be independent of partisan politics and to provide federal employees with an opportunity to appeal adverse and unfair personnel decisions.”


        • Democritus says:

          To be clear I added the definition because it was defined.

          The FBI may use alternate methods, and that would make sense given the secrecy of some matters and unique field appraisal issues for some more specialized units and the actual agents, but I do not know either way.

  7. harpie says:

    McCabe is also suing FBI and DoJ for firing him:

    Marcy retweets Ryan J. Reilly:
    12:46 PM – 8 Aug 2019

    NEW: Andrew McCabe sues over firing, says Sessions and Wray “served as Trump’s personal enforcers” and catered “to Trump’s unlawful whims instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the Constitution.” [link]

    McCabe brings the heat. [screenshot]:
    D. Even After the Election, Trump’s Attacks Continued.
    58 Despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by approximately 2.87 million votes, Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election by winning the Electoral College.


    • Rayne says:

      Have my fingers crossed that Sally Yates will likewise consider suing. The courts showed she was right about the Muslim travel ban; their method of implementation demonstrated bad faith. Her firing wasn’t about the travel ban as much as it was a tactic to halt the investigation into Flynn — and whether her refusal to enforce the illegal ban or obstructing Flynn’s investigation were Trump’s reasons, it was still a retaliatory dismissal on the basis of politics.

      • bmaz says:

        She is well past the statue of limitation, not to mention the shorter notice of claim provisions and administrative remedy attempts. Yates will not be doing that.

        • Rayne says:

          What’s the statute of limitations in this case? And when would the clock begin ticking — the firing? the first federal court decision? the last one in Hawaii allowing a modified version but not the original unlawful ban?

          • bmaz says:

            The true SOL can get complicated. Good rule of thumb is two years. And, yes, the date of firing is the trigger. The problem with notice of claim and trying to exhaust administrative remedies may be more important. It is rather complicated, and I don’t do this kind of law. Suffice it to say, I do not think Yates has done any steps that would put her in a position to sue at this point. And do not think she ever intended to.

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