The timing was remarkable. Just after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s plea deal with former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn, The Wall Street Journal reported that Peter Strzok, a top FBI agent assigned to Mueller’s team, had been reassigned over the summer after the discovery of text messages he wrote criticizing then-candidate Donald Trump.
“Mr. Strzok, who is considered one of the FBI’s most experienced counterintelligence agents, was reassigned to a supervisory job in the bureau’s human resources division after Mr. Mueller learned about the inquiry into the text messages,” the Journal reported.
For Trump, the news was a boon—a small piece of information he would brandish before his base as evidence that Mueller’s investigation was a witchhunt, as he’d said all along. Conversely, it complicated Mueller’s already politically precarious task. But much about Strzok’s story remains unknown, and it’s hard to draw useful conclusions about Mueller’s probe. Based on what is known, the more strident reactions—calling for the dissolution of the special counsel’s team—are completely unwarranted, and in the broader scope, they may weaken the justice system.
During the 2016 election, the Journal reported, Strzok exchanged texts in which he made fun of Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, with Lisa Page, a fellow FBI employee with whom he was romantically involved. (She also briefly worked on the Mueller team, leaving this summer.) Stzrok was also involved in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.