DOJ IG: Peter Strzok Was Almost Removed From Crossfire Hurricane Case

Susan Jones | December 13, 2019 | 10:36am EST
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Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok testifies at a House Joint committee hearing on July 12, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok testifies at a House Joint committee hearing on July 12, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

( - The FBI official in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation initially wanted to remove Counterintelligence Agent Peter Strzok from the case, the Inspector-General report revealed, because the official "had concerns about Strzok's personal relationship with Lisa Page affecting the Crossfire Hurricane team."

Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director E.W. "Bill" Priestap, who approved the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, told the IG that although he had ultimate responsibility for the Trump-Russia investigation, Strzok and the Intel Section Chief managed the case, holding meetings three times a week to discuss the next steps.

According to the report:

Priestap also told us that he originally wanted to assign the investigation to a Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) other than Strzok because, although he had confidence in Strzok's counterintelligence capabilities, he had concerns about Strzok's personal relationship with Lisa Page affecting the Crossfire Hurricane team.

According to Priestap, he told [Executive Assistant Director Michael] Steinbach about his concerns and Steinbach was supportive of his decision to remove Strzok from the team, but his decision was overruled by [Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe.

Steinbach told us that he had concerns about Strzok and Lisa Page working together because he was aware of instances where they bypassed the chain of command to advise McCabe [for whom Page worked] about case-related information that had not been provided to Priestap or Steinbach.

Priestap and Steinbach said they did not know why McCabe kept Strzok assigned to the investigation.

Strzok told the OIG he did not ask McCabe to keep him on the investigation and does not know whether Lisa Page requested Strzok remain on the investigation in conversations with McCabe. We found no evidence that Page made any such request of McCabe.

McCabe told us that he recalled separate conversations with Steinbach and Priestap about Strzok's work on Crossfire Hurricane, but he said that in neither conversation did he (McCabe) overrule a decision by Priestap to remove Strzok from the case.

According to McCabe, Steinbach said that he wanted to remove Strzok from his role on Crossfire Hurricane after Strzok became DAD (in September 2016) so that Strzok could have a "traditional DAD experience," rather than spending too much attention on a single, major sensitive case.

McCabe told us that he did not disagree with Steinbach, and he saw it as a decision for Steinbach and Priestap to make on their own. McCabe said that in a separate conversation with Priestap, Priestap raised a concern about Strzok and Page, but that it was not about any personal relationship between the two, which McCabe said he did not know about at the time.

According to McCabe, Priestap expressed frustration about the amount of time Page and Strzok were spending together talking about casework and that it was interfering with Strzok's ability to carry out his other responsibilities.

McCabe told us that he did not recall Priestap requesting that Strzok be removed from the case because of this concern, but McCabe said that he talked to Page about reducing the amount of time she was interacting with Strzok.

As previously reported, Priestap -- in testimony to the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on June 5, 2018 -- told lawmakers, "There is no FBI policy that prohibits somebody from having an affair. 

Priestap told Congress he heard about the Strzok-Page affair from someone at the FBI, and although he talked to both Strzok and Page about what he’d heard, he did not ask them if it was true. He just warned them not to let their personal lives interfere with their work.

Priestap also told Congress that he did speak to McCabe about the Strzok-Page relationship: "I spoke to Deputy Director McCabe about it," Priestap told Congress. "I also spoke to both Pete and Lisa about it. I felt I owed it to them. Lisa did not report to me, but I felt that they ought to be aware of what was being said.

"I didn't ask them if it was true, but they needed to know that that impression was out there. And I don't remember my exact words. But what I was trying to communicate is, this better not interfere with things, if you know what I mean. Like, to me, the mission is everything. And so we all have our personal lives, what have you. I'm not the morality police," Priestap said.

Also See:
FBI Counterintelligence Chief: ‘An Affair Is Not a Violation of FBI Policy’


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