Top FBI official assigned to Mueller’s Russia probe said to have been removed after sending anti-Trump texts – Orange County Register

By Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett

The former top FBI official assigned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election was taken off that job this past summer after his bosses discovered he and another member of Mueller’s team had exchanged politically charged texts disparaging President Trump and supportive of Hillary Clinton, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

Peter Strzok, as deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, was a key player in the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to do government work as secretary of state, as well as the probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

During the Clinton investigation, Strzok was involved in a romantic relationship with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who worked for Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The extramarital affair was problematic, these people said, but of greater concern among senior law enforcement officials were text messages the two exchanged during the Clinton investigation and campaign season, in which they expressed anti-Trump sentiments and other comments that appeared to favor Clinton.

The people discussing the matter did not further describe the political messages between Strzok and Page, except to say the two would sometime react to campaign news of the moment.

Officials are now reviewing the communications to see if they show evidence of political bias in their work on the cases, a review which could result in a public report, according to people familiar with the matter.

Defenders of Page and Strzok insisted the issue is “overblown’’ and that there was no misconduct between the two.

The Post has repeatedly sought comment from Strzok and Page, but got no response. The FBI and the Office of the Special Counsel declined to comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman said “We are aware of the allegations and are taking any and all appropriate steps.’’

A friend of Page said there was no professional misconduct at issue in the matter, and she said Page left the Mueller team in July before any of the issues came to light.

When the issue arose, Strzok was taken off the Mueller team in August and he was given a job in the human resources division of the FBI — widely viewed as a demotion internally, according to people…

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