Peter Strzok, the FBI agent fired from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team for his anti-Trump texts, had a disappointing message for congressional Republicans when he testified behind closed doors on Wednesday.
According to two sources familiar with his testimony, he told members that he was not involved in the drafting of an application for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Strzok said he provided no substantive input on the application—he didn’t supply any evidence for it and was not involved in presenting it to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval, according to these sources.
Strzok became a top target for Hill Republicans and the president himself after it was revealed that he sent anti-Trump texts to another FBI agent with whom he was having an affair. The texts raised eyebrows because Strzok worked on both the Clinton email investigation and the probe into potential coordination between Team Trump and the Kremlin. Mueller fired Strzok from his team because of the texts.
The Justice Department’s inspector general released a major report earlier this month finding no evidence that Strzok’s opposition to Trump informed the decisions he made on the Clinton email probe. But the report also provided new ammo for Strzok’s foes: It publicized a text message where he wrote that “we’ll stop” Trump from getting elected.
Republicans have long wondered whether Strzok played a role in masterminding the FISA application, which has become a key source of conservative criticism of the Justice Department.
“Did Peter Strzok help produce and present the application to the FISA court to secure a warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign?” conservative Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan asked FBI Director Chris Wray in a congressional hearing last December.
“I’m not prepared to discuss what happened in the court,” Wray replied.
Carter Page, the erstwhile Trump adviser with long and extensive connections to the Kremlin, told the New York Post last December that he suspected Strzok played a role in applying for and obtaining the FISA warrant.
Trump has tweeted about Strzok a host of times. On June 26, the president tweeted a quotation from Fox News pundit Judge Andrew Napolitano: “The most profound question of our era: Was there a conspiracy in the Obama Department of Justice and the FBI to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President of the U.S., and was Strzok at the core of the conspiracy?”
According to Strzok himself, those suspicions are unfounded.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes zeroed in on the Page FISA application as part of his committee’s investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. That investigation quickly veered away from its original purpose, with Nunes making a late-night trip to the White House on March 21, 2017, to pick up information about potential surveillance of Trump campaign associates.
In the following months, Nunes turned his investigation inside out, endeavoring to focus primarily on alleged abuse of Trump and his allies by the intelligence community. Nunes and committee Republicans released a report saying there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, a conclusion their Democratic colleagues rejected.
Before that report came out, Nunes also released a controversial memo alleging that the so-called Steele dossier—an opposition research file on Trump funded by the Clinton campaign—was the basis for the FISA application to surveil Page. The application cited the dossier, but FBI officials have said they would have pursued a warrant whether they had it or not. Nunes’ memo drew widespread criticism from intelligence officials, who say it was a conspiratorial attack on Mueller’s probe. Nunes’ boosters on the right, meanwhile, argued the memo was evidence of nefarious crimes and could result in people going to jail. Nobody went to jail over the memo or the FISA application.
But the president has made the Page FISA surveillance a key part of his case against Mueller.
“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” he tweeted on March 17 of this year. “It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”