On Monday, FBI agent Peter Strzok — the agent who presided over both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian election interference investigation while texting with his mistress about stopping President Trump — finally got the axe. The Department of Justice Inspector General report on the Hillary investigation was highly critical of Strzok, stating that his texts “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations,” and added that Strzok’s behavior “not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” The report found that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over the Hillary investigation could have been biased: “Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.” The report concluded that Strzok’s activities were “antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
So, it was beyond time for Strzok to go.
But what does this mean for the future of the Mueller investigation?
First, we still don’t know the extent to which Strzok’s personal bias impacted the Russia collusion investigation. Were warrants improperly ordered? Was information improperly gathered? Is the entire investigation indeed a sham, as President Trump has suggested? None of that is completely clear, even given Strzok’s pathetic behavior.
But those questions remain open. A bombshell report from The Hill’s John Solomon on Thursday suggests that Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, the man behind the Steele dossier, coordinated with then-associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr regarding information about Trump. Simpson even gave Ohr a memory stick filled with information. Solomon reported:
Whatever their assessment, Congress has a wide, new mandate to investigate the Simpson-Ohr-Steele contacts with renewed vigor and lots of questions that did not exist just a few short weeks ago: What was on the memory stick? What did Ohr do with the information? Did the FBI rely on it for future court actions? Did the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that approved surveillance warrants know Ohr was getting information from the Simpson-Steele operation after Steele had been dismissed?
How much does this impact the future of the Mueller investigation — which, after all, was initiated by the FBI’s investigation into Trump foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos, even according to House Intelligence Committee Republicans? Trump isn’t wrong to be suspicious of the depth of the probe, and its direction. But we’ll have to wait to see whether the probe was initiated improperly, how much Strzok’s bias weighed into the pursuit of information, and whether there is any underlying cause for the collusion investigation in the first place. Strzok’s firing is certainly an indication that the DOJ is aware of a bias problem within the FBI – the first step toward acknowledging that there may be broader problems with the collusion investigation.