ARCHIVE – In this file photo of October 28, 2013, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is seated before President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey arrive at an installation ceremony at the headquarters of the FBI. FBI in Washington. A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from the special advice of Robert Mueller's team investigating the meddling of Russian elections after the discovery of an exchange of text messages considered as potentially anti-president Donald Trump, said a person familiar with the matter. on Saturday, December 2, 2017. (Charles Dharapak, Archive / Associated Press)
By Eric Tucker | AP By Eric Tucker | AP December 2 at 8:35 PM
WASHINGTON – A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from the special team of Robert Mueller's team investigating the meddling of Russian elections after the discovery of a message from text seen as potentially anti-president Donald Trump, said a person familiar with the matter on Saturday.
The removal of the agent, who had also worked on the investigation of the use of a private email server by Hillary Clinton, occurred this summer. The person who discussed the matter with The Associated Press was not authorized to speak about it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said Mueller eliminated the agent, Peter Strzok, from the team "Immediately after learning of the allegations." He did not elaborate on the nature of the allegations.
The rapid removal almost certainly reflected the desire to isolate the investigators from any claim of political bias or favoritism. Trump and many of his supporters have sometimes tried to discredit the investigation, in part claiming a close relationship between Mueller and the dismissed FBI Director James Comey and pointing out the political contributions to the Democratic candidates made by some of the team's lawyers.
The existence of text messages was brought to the attention of Mueller's office by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, which has conducted a thorough investigation into the handling of Clinton's email case.
Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign badociates coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and Strzok's counterintelligence background would have been seen as particularly valuable for a secret FBI investigation examining foreign contacts .
So far, four people have been charged as a result of Mueller's investigation. The most recent criminal case was filed on Friday when former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambbadador. He agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that "he had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI." He has pleaded guilty to those lies. It's a shame because his actions during the transition were legal. There was nothing to hide! "
The tweet suggests that Trump was aware when he fired Flynn on February 13 that he had lied to the FBI, who had interviewed him weeks before, and Comey said that Trump brought up Flynn's investigation the next day. He said he hoped to "let it pbad".
The nature of the messages that Strzok exchanged and communicated with was not immediately clear, and in his statement, Carr pointed out that an FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, had been briefly detailed to the team, but left "before our office knew the allegations."
Strzok and Page's phone numbers could not be found immediately, and the FBI refused to do so. comments
The New York Times first reported the reason for the removal of the agent, ABC News reported in August that Strzok had left the team.
Strzok was present during the Cli interview Nton in July 2016 with the FBI about her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, according to an unclbadified summary of the interview commonly known as FBI form 302. Several other FBI agents and Department of Justice officials They also attended. The investigation concluded without criminal charges days later.
On Saturday, the DOJ inspector general's office issued a statement confirming that it was continuing to review unspecified allegations about the department's and FBI's actions "before the 2016 election." "
" The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain persons, and will report its findings with respect to those allegations immediately after the completion of their review, "the Inspector General's Office said.
statement does not refer to any agent or officer by name.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Saturday that the allegations confirmed by the inspector general's office, "if proven to be true, would raise serious questions about public confidence. "I look forward to receiving the report from the Inspector General, we will make sure that anyone working on an investigation at the Justice Department does so in an objective manner and free from prejudice or favoritism."
The sessions also said that he had ordered the FBI director to conduct a review and "make the necessary changes as soon as possible." its management and research teams are consistent with the highest professional standards. "
The Associated Press journalist Chad Day contributed to this report
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