Here’s What’s Happened To The FBI Officials Who Led Trump-Russia Probe
Chuck Ross on December 9, 2019
- The Justice Department’s watchdog is set to release a report that will focus on the activities of a small handful of now-former FBI officials during the Trump-Russia probe.
- In an ironic twist, several of those officials have themselves come under scrutiny for a variety of alleged misdeeds.
- Here is a list of the officials likely to face scrutiny in the watchdog report.
The Justice Department inspector general’s report on FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign is expected to focus on the activities of a small handful of FBI officials who led the investigation into possible collusion with Russia.
Nearly all of the FBI executives who handled the investigation have left the bureau. Some have been fired. Others have resigned under intense scrutiny from the media and White House. Several have become the subject of federal investigations themselves, and two have joined CNN as legal analysts.
Peter Strzok, former deputy chief of counterintelligence
Strzok was fired from the FBI on Aug. 10, 2018, over anti-Trump text messages that he exchanged with Lisa Page, a now-former FBI attorney with whom he was having an affair.
Strzok led both the Hillary Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations. He opened the latter July 31, 2016.
He joined the special counsel’s team after it was formed, but was removed July 27, 2017, after Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, informed special counsel Robert Mueller of the text messages.
Strzok was transferred to the FBI’s human resources department. The reasoning for his demotion and the existence of the text messages was not revealed until Dec. 2, 2017.
Horowitz, the inspector general, said in a June 2018 report about the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation that Strzok’s text messages “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”
He has sued the Justice Department for unlawful termination.
Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director
McCabe was fired March 16, 2018, stemming from an investigation into his authorization of media leaks in October 2016. He is reportedly the subject of a federal grand jury investigation.
The Justice Department inspector general and FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that McCabe displayed a lack of candor regarding his authorization to his top lawyer, Lisa Page, to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter about the status of an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
As FBI #2, McCabe played a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation. After James Comey was fired as FBI director May 9, 2017, McCabe directed the FBI to formally open investigations into President Donald Trump and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Despite his checkered past, CNN hired McCabe as a law enforcement analyst Aug. 23.
Lisa Page, former counsel to McCabe
Page resigned from the FBI on May 4, 2018, after months of scrutiny over her text messages with Strzok.
Page worked on the Trump-Russia investigation, and also served a short stint on the special counsel’s team. Her departure from the FBI and special counsel’s office does not appear to be directly tied to the scandal involving her text messages.
James Baker, former FBI general counsel
Baker served as FBI general counsel through the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations. He left the bureau in May 2018. He has also been the subject of a federal investigation regarding media leaks, reportedly about a topic that does not involve the Clinton or Trump investigations.
Baker is also a CNN legal analyst.
Bill Priestap, former chief of counterintelligence
Priestap served as Strzok’s boss at the FBI, where he managed the Trump-Russia investigation. Priestap left his counterintelligence post in December 2018 and retired from the FBI in April 2019.
He has not faced the same level of scrutiny as other FBI officials who worked the Russia investigation, and has not been accused of wrongdoing.
James Comey, former FBI director
President Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017. The firing was a key focus of the special counsel’s investigation into whether Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia probe.
Rod Rosenstein, who served as deputy attorney general, signed off on Comey’s firing, but wrote in a letter at the time that he disagreed with Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
Since his ouster, Comey has written a book about his tenure at the FBI. He has also been an outspoken critic of Trump.
Kevin Clinesmith, former FBI attorney
Clinesmith was the FBI’s top lawyer on the Russia probe in the early part of 2017. He is reportedly under federal investigation for altering documents that were used in applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Carter Page.
Clinesmith was identified as FBI Attorney #2 in Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. Clinesmith sent text messages criticizing Trump after his election win. In one, he wrote “Viva le Resistance.”
Clinesmith took part in at least one interview in February 2017 with George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide. The FBI lawyer worked on the special counsel’s team through February 2018, when he was removed because of his text messages.
Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy attorney general
Ohr served as principal deputy assistant attorney, one of the highest career positions at the Justice Department, until December 2017. He was transferred to a different role after it was learned that he was the FBI’s liaison to Christopher Steele.
Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked as a contractor in 2016 for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the Steele dossier.
Ohr had a longstanding relationship with Steele when they met in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2016, to discuss the former British spy’s investigation into Donald Trump. Steele told Ohr, who was accompanied by his wife at the meeting, that he had collected information on Trump’s possible ties to the Kremlin. Ohr briefed Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page on the information days later.
The FBI would tap Ohr after the November 2016 election to maintain contact with Steele. The bureau had cut ties with the dossier author Oct. 31, 2016, because he had unauthorized contacts with the media. Ohr had at least a dozen contacts with Steele, according to documents released by the FBI.
The Justice Department has claimed Ohr was not demoted over his contacts with Steele. Instead, the agency has said he was given a job that did not require him to visit to the White House.
Christopher Steele, former FBI confidential human source
Steele has never been an FBI employee, but the former British spy has worked as a paid FBI informant since leaving British government service in 2009. He served as an unpaid confidential human source for the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
The FBI relied on information from Steele’s dossier, which was funded by Democrats, in application to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page.
The FBI officially cut ties with Steele on Oct. 31, 2016, after discovering that he had disclosed his work with the FBI to a journalist with Mother Jones. Investigators established a back channel to Steele through Bruce Ohr after Trump’s surprise election win.
Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham referred Steele to the FBI and Justice Department for possible prosecution Jan. 4, 2018, alleging the former spy might have lied to the bureau about his media contacts.
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