The paperwork was signed. The former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who had become a lightning rod for efforts to undermine the Russia investigation, was set to receive a two-month suspension and a demotion as punishment for his alleged misconduct during the 2016 election. Then the FBI’s deputy director, David Bowdich, stepped in and fired him, saying he had undermined “the credibility of the FBI.”
Strzok came under fire late last year after the Justice Department released text messages that he sent using an FBI-issued device that were critical of Donald Trump. But questions have been raised about what specific bureau policies Strzok violated in sending those texts.
Candice Will, the longtime deputy director of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), had cited three ways in which Strzok had allegedly violated FBI policies during the election, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The first, “unprofessional conduct off duty,” directly related to his use of an FBI-issued cell phone to send the private texts. The second, “investigative deficiency”—later reduced to “dereliction of supervisory duty”— related to Strzok’s perceived delay in searching a laptop that belonged to Anthony Weiner, the husband of a top Hillary Clinton aide, as part of the probe of Clinton’s emails in the fall of 2016. Finally, Will told Strzok that he had committed a “security violation” for forwarding certain sensitive law-enforcement documents to his personal Gmail account. Bowdich’s decision to overrule her and fire Strzok on August 10 was considered highly unusual.