FBI Director Chris Wray was ousted this week by attorneys for former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page, who are suing the federal government separately over their departure from the FBI, coming after several years. month of being ridiculed by the then president. Donald Trump and his allies.
Tuesday’s closed impeachment, confirmed by two people familiar with the matter, could pave the way for Trump’s own removal in the coming weeks.
Many of Trump’s attacks based on private text messages between Strzok and Page, discovered by internal investigators, reflect strong anti-Trump sentiment.
“There is ample evidence that President Trump has long paid attention to – and in some cases, he was personally involved in – matters involving Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok,” Page’s attorneys said in advance. court.
In 2016, Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent, helped open the FBI’s investigation into alleged ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia – an investigation Trump concocted. mocked as a “hoax”.
Strzok originally joined special counsel Robert Mueller’s team when Mueller took over the investigation, but Strzok was reassigned after internal investigators discovered the private text messages.
Page resigned from the FBI in May 2018 and Strzok was fired from the agency three months later. Although they filed separate lawsuits, their legal teams are working together to gather evidence and expedite deposit.
In her lawsuit, Page claims the Justice Department and FBI violated the Privacy Act by publicly disclosing her private text messages, which she said were used “to promote push the false story that [she] and others at the FBI were prejudiced against President Trump, conspired to undermine him, and otherwise engaged in alleged criminal acts, including treason. .”
In his own lawsuit, Strzok claims wrongful termination of contract, alleges that the FBI and Justice Department violated his First Amendment rights, and that his dismissal “was the result of his actions.” a long and public campaign by President Trump and his allies to defame Strzok and pressure the agency to terminate him.”
The Justice Department has defended its actions, telling the court that the text messages were lawfully made public, that the text messages “have the potential to seriously harm the FBI’s mission by ways to undermine their perception of professionalism and fairness”, and thus any First Amendment rights are affected. greater by “the FBI’s interest in … protecting its reputation as a trusted, nonpartisan investigative organization.”
Both lawsuits cite a series of tweets and public statements by Trump before Page resigned and Strzok was fired by the FBI.
Trump said at the White House in June 2018, two months before Strzok was fired: “I’m surprised Peter Strzok is still at the FBI and so are the others… Peter Strzok should have been fired a long time ago. “.
Before Strzok’s termination, Trump and Wray both attended meetings that included discussions about Strzok and Page’s employment status. Those meetings were the focus of Wray’s trial on Tuesday, which lasted two hours, according to court records and a person involved in the case.
At least one of the former FBI agents was in the room with Wray during this week’s offering, ABC News was told.
The judge overseeing both cases, US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, said that any removal from Trump would have to be limited to two hours.
The former president’s legal team did not assert executive privilege over conversations regarding Strzok’s employment status, according to court filings.
Judge Jackson called Trump “an important witness to what happened.”
Page and Strzok wanted to remove Trump before removing Wray, but – after much legal controversy – Berman Jackson declined that request, waiting to see if Trump’s removal was still necessary after hearing testimony from Wray. or not.
Other former senior FBI and Justice Department officials have been removed.
In suing the Department of Justice and the FBI, Strzok is seeking recovery, refund, and unspecified monetary damages. Page is also seeking unspecified monetary damages, saying continued attacks from Trump and his allies have left her “permanently incapacitated by reputational damage.” ” and forced her to pay for therapy “in response to unwanted exposure and harassment by the national media.”
Although the Justice Department’s inspector general reviewed the Justice Department’s broader Russia investigation, it found no evidence that “political bias or inappropriate motives influenced decisions” by Strzok and others, a more recent report by special counsel John Durham said “confirmation bias” led FBI officials to take unnecessary intrusive steps. However, according to the Durham report, the evidence gathered does not support the charges against Strzok or any other senior FBI official.
The FBI declined to comment on the matter to ABC News.