Fate offered Peter Strzok a place in history that he never sought. The son of an Army officer, Strzok also served in the United States military before joining the FBI’s counterintelligence operation in 1996. He excelled at his job: In 2001, he was part of the team that tracked and arrested a network of Russian “illegals” who had been living in the U.S. for many years under deep cover. But those were not the cases that brought him into the limelight. Notoriety came later, when Strzok, as the bureau’s chief of counterespionage, led investigations first into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and then into Russian interference in the 2016 American election campaign.
Strzok has always argued that he, James Comey, and the rest of the FBI tried, from the beginning, to treat both of these cases apolitically: They were focused on following the law. But after the Department of Justice released some private texts in which he was critical of President Donald Trump, he was accused not just of bias, but of seeking to deliberately discredit the president. Strzok, who also worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in its early months, became a hate figure for everyone who sought to distract the public from the facts about Russia’s intervention and the Trump team’s eager embrace of it. “I have devoted my adult life to defending the United States, our Constitution, our government and all our citizens,” Strzok writes in the introduction to Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump. “I never would have imagined—could not have imagined—that the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, would single me out with repeated attacks of treason, accusing me of plotting a coup against our government.”