Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who lost his job after the discovery of his anti-President Donald Trump texts, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice and FBI for wrongful termination and violating his First Amendment rights.

Background

Strzok worked on the FBI’s investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the Russia probe.

The texts between Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page came to light after the DOJ inspector general discovered them last year. The texts described Trump as an “idiot” and “disaster.”

The inspector general wrote that the texts “sowed doubts about the FBI’s work,” but did not “find evidence that political bias affected the outcome.” Strzok insisted to Congress that he never let his personal views “affect his official actions.” The Wall Street Journal continued:

The handling of Mr. Strzok’s case was the subject of some dispute within the FBI. The Office of Professional Responsibility last June proposed that Mr. Strzok be terminated, due to the notoriety of the text messages. Two months later, on Aug. 8, the head of that office instead recommended that Mr. Strzok be demoted and suspended for 60 days without pay, citing similar circumstances involving other FBI officials and Mr. Strzok’s record at the FBI, the complaint said.

That determination cited “the fact that you were assigned to two very stressful and high-profile investigations during the time of your misconduct,” and praise from management that described Mr. Strzok as “an extremely talented and intelligent investigator, gifted agent, and hardworking employee,” according to the complaint.

The next day, Mr. Strzok was fired. The FBI’s no. 2 official, David Bowdich, overruled the earlier determination and said Mr. Strzok’s “sustained pattern of bad judgment” in using his FBI device called into question the decisions he made in the two investigations, the complaint said.

The Lawsuit

Strzok filed his lawsuit in a federal court in Washington, DC. The lawsuit states the FBI fired him “because of his protected political speech in violation of his rights under the First Amendment.” It also claims the bureau “deprived Strzok of his property interest in his employment without due process, in violation of his rights under the Fifth Amendment” since the immediate firing did not give him an opportunity to appeal it.

The defendants include the DOJ and FBI. It also names Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray, but they both are only being sued in their “official capacity.”

The lawsuit alleges the public campaign against Strzok happened due to the DOJ and FBI’s “deliberate and unlawful disclosure to the media of texts, intended to be private, from an FBI systems of records,” which Strzok asserts is a violation of the Privacy Act.

Strzok hopes to use the lawsuit to receive “equitable and injunctive relief, including reinstatement and back pay” and “actual damages for the violations of the Privacy Act.”

The Privacy Act of 1974 “prohibits the disclosure of a record about an individual from a system of records absent the written consent of the individual, unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions.”

The act “also provides individuals with a means by which to seek access to and amendment of their records, and sets forth various agency record-keeping requirements.”

No one has confirmed who authorized the release of the text messages between Strzok and Page.

Strzok’s lawsuit brings up FBI policy that allows FBU employees to “[e]xpress his or her opinion as an individual privately and publicly on political subjects and candidates.” There is the Hatch Act that says the government can infringe on an employee’s First Amendment rights “to provide effective government and avoid the public perception of ‘political justice.'”

Strzok maintains that he never violated the Hatch Act.

But Will listed “three ways Strzok allegedly violated FBI policies.” She did not mention “the content of the text messages,” but her office noted “that the ‘overtly political tone’ of the messages was ‘of serious concern.’

Strzok v. Barr by Washington Examiner on Scribd

 
 
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