Former FBI agent Peter Strzok claims government violated his privacy, free speech rights
He argues the Justice Department improperly released his text messages.
December 31, 2019, 8:52 PM
7 min read
Former FBI agent Peter Strzok is claiming the government violated his First Amendment rights by releasing his private text messages that contained his political opinion about President Donald Trump.
In a new court filing Monday, Strzok and his attorneys argue that the Justice Department violated his protected free speech by releasing the text messages he exchanged with then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote in one text. “No. No he won’t,” Strzok responded. “We’ll stop it.” He also called Trump an “idiot.”
Strozk, citing what appears to be a private exchange between him and Page, claims that the FBI fired him because he expressed his political beliefs.
Justice Department lawyers argue that it wasn’t the political speech that he was fired for, but because Page and Strozk used their work phones.
Strozk claims others who made similar political remarks, but in favor of President Trump, were not punished.
“This disparate and discriminatory treatment is but one example of a broader pattern,” his suit says. “Throughout the Trump Administration, there has been a pattern of treating political speech by federal employees differently based on its content. While Plaintiff and many others who have criticized the President have faced discipline, up to and including termination, revocation of security clearances, and threats of criminal prosecution, federal employees who praise President Trump and/or attack his political rivals have faced no consequences.”
Strozk originally sued DOJ in August, claiming that the FBI and DOJ unlawfully disclosed his private text messages that disparaged Trump before and after the 2016 presidential election — including the time frame during which Strzok helped lead the agency’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
President Trump has made Strzok a frequent target, citing those disparaging texts, and has repeatedly argued that Strzok’s political bias tainted the early stages of the Russia investigation.
Strzok’s claims of privacy and free speech violations mirror those made in a lawsuit filed by Page.
Page sued the FBI and DOJ earlier this year, alleging her privacy was violated by the release of texts she exchanged with Strzok.
She contends that, after the disclosure of the text messages, she was targeted by President Trump and his allies.
Both claim that DOJ violated the Privacy Act by releasing the text messages to the press.
“Upon information and belief, the disclosures to the media were intended to discredit the Mueller investigation, engender public distrust of the FBI and the intelligence community, and otherwise serve the partisan political agenda of President Trump and his political allies,” Strzok’s recent court filing says.
Former DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isagur Flores refuted the claim that DOJ mislead Congress and didn’t conduct a “thoughtful review” from career officials.
“As the DAG said, after initial inquiries from Congress, the DAG consulted with the IG, and the IG determined that he had no objection to the Department providing the material to the Congressional committees that had requested it (discussion w IG was only about Congress),” she tweeted in December 2017.
“After that consultation, senior career ethics advisors determined that there were no legal or ethical concerns, including under the Privacy Act, that prohibited the release of the information to the public either by members of Congress or by the Department,” Flores said.
In the new court filing, Strozk also takes issue with the process by which he was terminated.
“Plaintiff also expressed deep concerns with the lack of due process in his disciplinary process, citing the following facts: repeated public and private statements by President Trump demanding that Plaintiff be fired; Plaintiff’s inability to access his own files or the thousands of pages of materials relied upon by OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility); and “the unusual and unprecedented speed of OPR’s process,” evidenced by the fact that OPR’s letter to Plaintiff still contained language keyed to a prior version of the OIG report that had been changed in the final report, which suggested “a rush to judgment which undermines [Plaintiff’s] right to due process.”
ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.