WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An FBI agent who criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in text messages in 2016 was taken to task by Republicans at a U.S. Congress hearing on Tuesday, while his lawyer said he was recently escorted out of the FBI building.
Peter Strzok, who once worked on the FBI investigation into the handling of classified information by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, has become a target for Republicans trying to show the FBI is biased against Trump.
“On February and March of 2016, Peter Strzok said Trump’s abysmal, Trump’s an idiot,” Republican Representative Jim Jordan, a Trump ally, said at the hearing. “Hillary should win 100 million to zero. It sounds like he hates the president.”
Democrats accused Republicans of cherry-picking parts of a recent report to attack the FBI.
Strzok’s lawyer Aitan Goelman said on Tuesday that Strzok was removed from the FBI building, at an unspecified date, as part of disciplinary proceedings related to the texts.
Goelman said Strzok “remains a proud FBI agent” who wants to continue working for the law enforcement agency.
“Pete has steadfastly played by the rules and respected the process, and yet he continues to be the target of unfounded personal attacks,” Goelman said in a statement.
“All of this seriously calls into question the impartiality of the disciplinary process, which now appears tainted by political influence.”
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report last week describing missteps by the FBI in its handling of the investigation of Clinton’s private email server use while she was secretary of state.
The report found there was no political bias at the FBI in decisions made in the Clinton probe.
But the inspector general’s report criticized Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The two were having an extramarital affair and exchanged thousands of politically charged texts. In one, Page asked Strzok if Trump was going to be president. Strzok responded: “No, he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
After the probe of Clinton’s use of her private email server for sensitive information, Strzok worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He was removed from the probe and reassigned.
Both Trump and Russia have denied any collusion or wrongdoing.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Trott