Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed a top FBI agent assigned to the investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates after learning of allegations that the agent had exchanged messages with another member of Mueller’s team that were anti-Trump in nature.
The New York Times and Washington Post both published stories Saturday reporting the removal of Peter Strzok from the investigation. In a rare public statement Saturday, the special counsel’s office confirmed Strzok was removed from the probe. The messages were reportedly discovered by the inspector general of the Justice Department during the course of an investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.
As deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, Strzok played a pivotal role in the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Lisa Page, the other FBI agent involved in the communications, left the special counsel’s office before it was aware of the accusations, according to the special counsel’s office.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” said Peter Carr, spokesman for the special counsel’s office, in a statement to CBS News. “Lisa Page completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.”
Despite Mueller’s removal of the agent from the Russia investigation, the text messages are likely to raise concerns among Republicans, many of whom are already skeptical of Mueller’s probe.
The possible messages came up as the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General’s reviews the actions leading up to the 2016 election, a review that has been publicly known since the beginning of the year. The OIG earlier this year announced it was reviewing the FBI probe of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails and then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision to make public statements about the probe and not recommend charges.
“The January 2017 statement issued by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announcing its review of allegations regarding various actions of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in advance of the 2016 election stated that the OIG review would, among other things, consider whether certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations and that we also would include issues that might arise during the course of the review,” the OIG said in a statement to CBS News. “The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them.”
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