Peter Strzok castigated Lindsey Graham after the senator unveiled declassified documents that he said showed the “corrupt nature” of the Russia investigation.
The former FBI agent denounced by President Trump and his allies shot back at Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in response to the South Carolina Republican’s comments about a document showing Strzok harshly criticized a February 2017 New York Times report tying the Trump campaign to Russian intelligence officials.
Graham said the document “demonstrates that Peter Strzok and others in F.B.I. leadership positions must have been aware of the issues with” British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, which contained unverified claims of ties between the Trump team and Russia, “that the F.B.I.’s interview with Steele’s ‘primary subsource’ revealed.”
Strzok responded through his lawyer.
“Sen. Graham’s statement represents another attempt by President Trump’s congressional lackeys to use Pete’s work product to paint the Russia investigation as a political witch hunt,” Strzok’s lawyer Aitan Goelman said in a statement obtained by the Washington Examiner.
In the annotated notes, Strzok, who led the Crossfire Hurricane unit investigating the Trump campaign, reacted to an assertion that FBI officials believed Steele had a credible track record. “Recent interviews and investigation, however, reveal Steele may not be in a position to judge the reliability of his subsource network,” he wrote in the margins.
“The comments of Peter Strzok regarding the Feb. 14 New York Times article are devastating in that they are an admission that there was no reliable evidence that anyone from the Trump campaign was working with Russian intelligence agencies in any form,” Graham said. “The statements by Mr. Strzok question the entire premise of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign and make it even more outrageous that the Mueller team continued this investigation for almost two and a half years. Moreover, the statements by Strzok raise troubling questions as to whether the FBI was impermissibly unmasking and analyzing intelligence gathered on U.S. persons.”
Also released by Graham on Friday was a declassified 57-page transcript of the FBI’s interview with a top source for Steele who contradicted several of the dossier’s claims.
Despite these concerns, Steele’s dossier was used by the FBI to obtain warrants to surveil one-time Trump campaign adviser Carter Page electronically, an effort that was later heavily criticized by the Justice Department’s independent watchdog.
Goelman insisted that Strzok had no involvement in obtaining the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants targeting Page, who was never charged with any wrongdoing.
“Pete’s comments on inaccuracies in the NYT article were nothing more than a dedicated counterintelligence professional diligently vetting public reports of intelligence information,” Goelman said. “Pete, who had no involvement in the Page FISA renewals in 2017, always alerted his colleagues and superiors of any mistakes or inaccuracies that he was aware of.”
Sources told the New York Times that another senior FBI counterintelligence official, Jennifer Boone, supervised a team that was in charge of vetting the dossier and the Page wiretap.
After releasing the documents, Graham told the Wall Street Journal that he wants “to go from the bottom of the pyramid to the top and find out just how many people were informed” about the source interview as part of his panel’s review into the origins of the Russia investigation. Democrats have raised concerns that the investigation is a politically motivated effort to attack the president’s rivals.
Strzok, who took part in the Russia and Hillary Clinton email investigations, authored the “opening electronic communication” that initiated the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. After DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz uncovered anti-Trump text messages between Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Republicans accused them of being part of a plot to undermine Trump. Horowitz, however, did not determine that their personal opinions tainted their work.
Documents declassified in April indicate Strzok abruptly stopped the FBI from closing its investigation into retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in early January 2017 after uncovering “no derogatory information” on the incoming national security adviser. Former Rep. Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, said last month that Strzok is likely a target of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation.
Strzok was fired in August 2018 and a year later filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. In the face of repeated insults by Trump, Strzok warned in February that he will “have a great deal more to say about the president’s attacks on those with responsibility for holding him accountable.”