Two months ago, almost to the day, I asked why Strzok hadn’t been fired yet. Bureaucracies work at their own pace.
But sometimes they do work.
Who was the last rank-and-file agent to damage the FBI’s credibility as broadly as Strzok has? Below the director level, short of espionage, it’s almost impossible to shake the public’s faith in the Bureau as much.
The FBI has fired Agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.
Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s lawyer, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing on Friday — even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process…
Goelman said [the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility] ultimately decided that Strzok … be subjected to a “last chance agreement.” That would have put him on thin ice if he were commit another offense. But Goelman said Bowdich overruled that decision and ordered Strzok’s termination.
Remember in June when he was seen being escorted from the building? Presumably that was the start of the OPR process. Today we have the conclusion.
Bowdich will be attacked for supposedly doing Trump’s bidding by ridding the Bureau of one of his most public enemies but there’s an understandable “neutral” reason to fire Strzok: He and Chris Wray are sending, and should send, a message of zero tolerance about letting political biases infect investigations. Whether Strzok was guilty of actual impropriety will remain unknown until the IG finishes his Russiagate report. Whether he’s guilty of an appearance of impropriety is beyond question. That would be a bad trait in an investigator even during a routine investigation; in a guy who led investigations into both the Democratic and Republican nominees for presidents, it’s an unimaginable lapse of judgment. He had to go, particularly when you remember that there were various other FBI agents accused of sending political texts in the IG’s report on Emailgate. They’re making an example of Strzok because an example actually does need to be made.
It feels deeply strange to see anyone held accountable for terrible judgment in Washington anymore, especially to the point of their career being given the death penalty. Between Strzok and Andrew McCabe, though, Wray is clearly trying to signal that he runs his shop differently than the rest of the government. Good for him. Exit question: Where can I pre-order the Strzok tell-all?
Update: Some on Twitter are wondering whether it’s fair to fire Strzok for simply “disliking” Trump. All FBI personnel have political preferences, after all. It can’t be a firing offense to say that you dislike a certain candidate, even if he’s in line to be your boss. Right, but Strzok wasn’t a random agent. He was in a lead role on not one but two investigations that bore directly on Trump’s presidential chances. And he didn’t merely say that he “disliked” Trump. The “we’ll stop it” text implied a willingness to act to damage Trump, whether or not Strzok really meant it. That’s where the appearance of impropriety lies.
Update: The inevitable tweet.