Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that he was unlawfully fired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for expressing his political opinions and that the Department of Justice violated his privacy by releasing hundreds of Strzok’s text messages to the public. Strzok is suing the FBI, Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice, and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“The concerted public campaign to disparage and, ultimately, fire Special Agent Strzok was enabled by the defendants’ deliberate and unlawful disclosure to the media of texts, intended to be private, from an FBI systems of records, in violation of the Privacy Act, 5 USC § 552a,” the complaint reads.
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“The campaign to publicly vilify Special Agent Strzok contributed to the FBI’s ultimate decision to unlawfully terminate him, as well as to frequent incidents of public and online harassment and threats of violence to Strzok and his family that began when the texts were first disclosed to the media and continue to this day.”
As a veteran FBI agent, Strzok had been one of the lead investigators in the agency’s inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of use of a private email server. He then served under former special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference before being removed by Mueller after controversial anti-Trump text messages surfaced between Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Despite protocol calling for him to be demoted, Strzok was fired from the FBI last year.
In his filed complaint, Strzok argues that the content of his text messages with Page constituted political speech protected by the First Amendment.
“The FBI fired Special Agent Strzok because of his protected political speech in violation of his rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The FBI also deprived Strzok of his property interest in his employment without due process, in violation of his rights under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. This action seeks equitable and injunctive relief, including reinstatement and back pay, for these flagrant violations of plaintiff’s rights under the Constitution, as well as actual damages for the violations of the Privacy Act.”
According to the complaint, Strzok was denied proper FBI protocol allowing him to appeal his discharge to the Merit Systems Protection Board due to President Donald Trump’s “unrelenting pressure.”
“The discharge decision was . . . the result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media,” the complaint says. “The campaign to fire Strzok included constant tweets and other disparaging statements by the President, as well as direct appeals from the President to then Attorney General Jefferson Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Strzok, which were chronicled in the press.”
In the lawsuit, Strzok is seeking reinstatement to the FBI, front pay, back pay, and a declaration that the government violated his rights, among other things.
[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.]
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