Despite President Trump and his camp insisting that the ongoing probe looking into whether they colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election is a “witch hunt,” special counsel Robert Mueller removed an FBI agent, Peter Strzok, from the investigation team for expressing anti-Trump sentiments.
Text messages between Strzok, the FBI’s deputy head of counterintelligence, and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer, revealed that the two held pro-Hillary Clinton and anti-Trump opinions during the presidential campaign and the investigation into Clinton’s email server.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” said Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesperson.
This runs contrary to Trump’s repeated attempts to discredit Mueller and his team as biased. “He’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome,” he said in a June Fox & Friends interview. “I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous, if you want to know the truth.”
In July, Trump additionally accused Mueller of having a conflict of interest for having sought former FBI director John Comey’s job. “He was up here, and he wanted the job,” he told the New York Times. “I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
Other Trump supporters like former House speaker Newt Gingrich have also accused the Russia investigators of being biased. “The Mueller investigation has so many conflicts of interest, it’s almost an absurdity,” he said in a July interview on Fox News. “I think it’s a very reasonable to say this is a very dangerous witch hunt that Mueller keeps expanding it because he can’t find anything in the original charge. He’s not going to find anything about Trump and Russia, and yet he’s hired all of these guys who have given up their very expensive law services to come out and try to get somebody and they’re going to eventually find somebody to prosecute because there are too many lawyers being paid too much money for them to go home having accomplished nothing.”
Aside from Trump and his fiercest defenders, Mueller enjoys a reputation for being fair and nonpartisan among pretty much everyone else in Washington.
The special counsel’s office released a statement following Strzok’s removal on Saturday. ‘‘The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them,’’ it said.