FBI agent Peter Strzok on Wednesday said former President Trump and others “successfully chilled the FBI’s willingness to investigate anything” Trump-related, complicating later inquiries into the former president’s handling of classified document.
Strzok took to Twitter to comment on new reporting from The Washington Post indicating that FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors squabbled over how aggressively to criminally investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents, including whether to conduct a surprise search of his Florida residence.
“Trump, [Attorney General William] Barr, [special counsel John] Durham, and others successfully chilled the FBI’s willingness to investigate anything related to Trump. The FBI handled Trump with unprecedented kid gloves, afraid to follow the facts for fear of political blowback, delaying the investigation for months,” Strzok wrote in one tweet.
The FBI executed a search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and recovered more than a hundred classified materials this summer, but the Post article suggests some agents wanted to cut off the criminal investigation into Trump’s document handling beforehand, after Trump’s team had said they turned over all the materials.
“How’d that work out? Oh, right, Trump still had 100+ docs,” Strzok said.
Strzok highlighted a section of the article contending the FBI agents were cautious in their treatment of the Trump case because of “damaging” mistakes in prior probes of Hillary Clinton as well as Trump.
“Really? Name one. I’ll wait,” Strzok wrote in another tweet.
The FBI had investigated Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State.
The Washington Post report details a number of internal Justice Department tensions surrounding the documents case: Some FBI agents thought Trump’s team should be believed in saying they’d turned over all the documents, while prosecutors pressed further investigation. Prosecutors urged the FBI to surprise-search Mar-a-Lago, while two top FBI officials said they should ask the former president’s permission.
The then-head of the FBI’s Washington field office, Steven D’Antuono, was against a surprise search and expressed concerns about the optics of agents descending on a former president’s home, according to the report.
The Post article cites sources who say D’Antuono asked Jay Bratt, head of the counterintelligence division of the Justice Department, if Trump was the subject of a criminal probe — and that Bratt responded, “What does that matter?”
Strzok said The Washington Post article “points to a damning fear in the FBI stemming from political fear, not from fact.”
The former FBI agent was fired from the bureau amid an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, after text messages were uncovered between him and former FBI attorney Lisa Page, discussing Trump critically during the 2016 election. Trump mocked Strzok and Page, who were having an extramarital affair, over the texts and their relationship — and knocked the Justice Department over what he saw as a strategy to undercut him.
In his Wednesday Twitter thread, Strzok knocked the suggestion that some FBI agents were “simply afraid” that investigating Trump could harm their careers.
“You know what would go a long way to erasing that fear? Leadership that protected agents from political blowback, allowing them to do their job,” he wrote.
This story was updated at 2:58 p.m.
Source: The Hill