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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) This thread has everything you need to know about Peter Strzok—the FBI agent who Mueller demoted, Trump wants prosecuted for Treason, and Trump's agents in Congress say led a Deep State coup attempt. Please read and share to end Trump's disinformation campaign on Strzok.
1/ Peter Strzok is a military veteran who's worked for the FBI for approximately a quarter-century, through both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations. The FBI has promoted him again and again since the 90s for his superlative intelligence and investigative work.
2/ Agent Strzok—a Midwesterner educated at Georgetown—began his FBI career as a mere intelligence research specialist, but due to superlative performance saw himself promoted repeatedly until he'd become, by mid-2017, Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division.
3/ Strzok's FBI colleagues say that he's never shown any political bias in his work—a fact confirmed by Strzok's repeated promotion within the Bureau over a 25-year period. Evidence of political bias in his intelligence or investigative work would have *precluded* his promotions.
4/ In 25 years, Agent Strzok has made two mistakes we know of, neither of which have anything whatsoever to do with Trump: (1) he had a romantic relationship with a work colleague, which is almost never a good idea, and (2) he expressed a political opinion on an FBI-issued phone.
5/ (I'm putting aside here any allegations regarding personal—as opposed to professional—conduct, which likewise have nothing to do with Donald Trump.

Strzok, who is married, was having an affair with a DOJ prosecutor who briefly worked on Mueller's team and is also married.)
6/ As then-Section Chief for Counterespionage, Strzok was asked—along with eleven other agents—to review Clinton's use of a private email server. After Director Comey decided he couldn't charge Clinton with a crime, Strzok and the others were asked to help edit Comey's statement.
7/ Once FBI Director Jim Comey—Agent Strzok's superior—had determined Clinton couldn't be charged with a crime, and once AG Loretta Lynch had given Director Comey the authority to make the final determination on the subject, everyone knew Comey's statement would be the last word.
8/ Agent Strzok was thus asked to edit his superior's public declaration mindful of several unalterable facts, one more important than the others: it was the official position of the FBI that Hillary Clinton had not committed a crime. The Director's statement had to reflect that.
9/ Unfortunately, in drafting his statement—which he knew would then go on to Strzok and his team for editing—Comey made a critical error: he used language, in describing Clinton's conduct, that mirrored language from a criminal statute the FBI was saying Clinton hadn't violated.
10/ We don't know why Jim Comey made this error: perhaps exhaustion, or perhaps haste, or perhaps he merely had words from the statute in his head and didn't realize they'd accidentally made it into his statement. Perhaps he just knew his work would be edited and mistakes caught.
11/ Agent Strzok—a superlative FBI employee for 25 years, and now one of its most respected and trusted agents—*did his job* upon receiving his superior's statement: he saw that Director Comey had wrongly used language from a statute the FBI was saying Clinton had *not* violated.
12/ Director Comey can be criticized for many things, among them writing a bad first draft of his July 2016 statement in May 2016. It would've been professional malpractice for the FBI to both accuse *and* exonerate Hillary Clinton of a federal crime. It would've been a scandal.
13/ For this reason, Strzok changed the impermissible statutory language Comey wrongly put in his statement ("grossly negligent," again a legal standard and known statutory wording) to nonlegal terminology that nevertheless captured his superior's sentiment: "extremely careless."
14/ When Comey's statement was released in July 2016, media outlets and commentators—*this progressive commentator included*—published articles noting Comey had cited Clinton for exactly the "mens rea" (state of mind) required by a federal statute, but using euphemistic language.
15/ This reaction to the statement *underscored* Strzok's commitment to preserving Comey's sentiments (while protecting the FBI from the scandal—and the inevitable retraction of Comey's remarks—that would have come had he simultaneously accused and exonerated Clinton of a crime).
16/ What I'm saying here—as someone who worked with criminal statutes every day for years—is that Strzok would've been *thoroughly justified* had he gone to Comey and said, "You can *neither* say 'grossly negligent' *nor* 'extremely careless' if you're not going to charger her."
17/ You can argue—if you like—Comey should've charged Clinton. You can even do some psychoanalysis and say the reason Comey wrote "grossly negligent" in his statement is that in his heart he knew he had enough evidence to charge Clinton. There's evidence for this latter theory.
18/ The evidence is that Comey averred, in his statement, that even if he found Clinton to have violated the language of the two statutes he was looking at—or just one of them—he still couldn't prosecute her because the statutes had almost never been used by the DOJ in the past.
19/ So perhaps, when Comey put language in the first draft of his statement that simultaneously accused and exonerated Clinton of a crime, it happened because he had made his final determination on the case more based on the history of the statutes at issue than their language.
20/ What *no one in America can say* is that Strzok's actions a) helped Clinton, or b) were unprofessional.

Had Strzok wanted to help Clinton, he had an obvious way to do it: tell Comey that *no language even vaguely resembling statutory language* could appear in his statement.
21/ Were I an attorney at the FBI or DOJ, I'd have told Strzok that it better protects the FBI *and* any citizen the FBI has chosen *not* to prosecute if a statement exonerating that citizen leaves no confusion whatsoever about whether the FBI believes a crime has been committed.
22/ But Agent Strzok—trying, it's clear in retrospect, to honor his superior's choice of language as well as protect the FBI—settled on the intermediate route of removing the statutory language but preserving the (somewhat contradictory) sense of Director Comey's July statement.
23/ But let's be clear on two things:

(a) The best course would've been to excise not only "grossly negligent" but also "extremely careless" from the statement; and
(b) had "grossly negligent" stayed in, Strzok would've failed Comey and Comey would've had to amend his statement.
24/ There was not—in May '16, July '16, or anytime thereafter—*any chance* that Director Comey was going to issue (and let stand) an official FBI statement of exoneration that accidentally accused the exonerated of a crime. All Strzok did was save Comey from issuing a correction.
25/ So—to recap—as to this first of two accusations against Agent Strzok:

(a) Comey wrote a bad—even nonsensical—draft of a statement;
(b) Strzok fixed the draft in a necessary and professional way that was conspicuously less protective of Clinton than a lawyer would've advised.
26/ By the way, I'm not just saying all this in retrospect: in July of 2016 I wrote an article for The Huffington Post saying that Comey's statement was confusingly worded, and that a good part of the confusion came from him seeming to simultaneously accuse and exonerate Clinton.
27/ So when I say now that—if Agent Strzok is to be faulted for *anything*—it's that he was *less* protective of *both* Clinton and the FBI in mid-2016 than he should have been, that's consistent with a view of the situation I took more than 18 months ago. I'm on record on this.
28/ So had Strzok done his job in mid-2016 even better than he did, the language he allowed into Comey's statement—"extremely careless"—wouldn't have been there. It was Strzok's dedication to Comey and his *lack* of thought for basic fairness to Clinton that left the language in.
29/ What about the second accusation against Strzok, the one Trump said should get him charged with Treason (18 U.S.C § 2381) and—therefore—possibly executed? Is there *any* indication he did anything wrong there, besides texting personal political opinions via an FBI phone?

30/ (To be clear, having an affair with a peer on Mueller's team, and texting political opinions via a government phone—especially while working on a case involving the person discussed—*were* grounds for demotion, and Mueller took that step as soon as he discovered the conduct.)
31/ (But Mueller took those administrative actions because Agent Strzok had violated workplace regulations—and, secondarily, because him doing so had distracted from his team's mission. He *didn't* demote Strzok because there was or is *any* evidence of misconduct *in his work*.)
32/ So here's the full text of the private message between Strzok and his girlfriend that Trump thinks Strzok should be imprisoned (and possibly executed) for, and which Trump's many agents in Congress point to as evidence of a massive "Deep State" coup conspiracy:
33/ "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration...that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40."

Besides it being sent via an FBI phone, this is all fine.
34/ Before I explain why, please remember that FBI agents *are permitted to have political opinions*. And the FBI—like everyone else in America—has no illusions about the fact that FBI agents will at times share those opinions with those they're in an intimate relationship with.
35/ Strzok was (in 2016) in an intimate relationship with an attorney who briefly worked on Mueller's team, meaning that it's doubly unsurprising he'd share personal opinions with her, because (a) he has them, (b) they're in an intimate relationship, (c) they're on the same team.
36/ That last point is key.

The real danger of an FBI agent sharing political opinions with a romantic partner is that if those opinions are relevant to a case that agent is working on, the fact that partner has no such affiliations or loyalties could quickly become a problem.
37/ In the case of Strzok of his romantic partner, Strzok knew even if the relationship ended, both he and his—then—ex-partner would still be bound by confidentiality regulations and professionalism to not discuss private conversations that could publicly taint the investigation.
38/ So it was *fine* for Strzok to have private opinions—and while *not* entirely fine for him to share them with a romantic partner, it was *less* worrisome for him having done so knowing she too was bound by professional obligations that had nothing to do with the relationship.
39/ What got him demoted—i.e. a line he couldn't cross professionally, though it still had nothing to do with the substance of the work itself—was using an FBI phone to send his opinions, as that made them discoverable by the public. And that meant they could *endanger* the work.
40/ To be clear, the "danger" to the work is merely one of perception, as in legal and much governmental work the "perception" of a conflict of interest must—for some very good reasons—be dealt with the same way as an *actual* conflict of interest. Strzok created that impression.
41/ That said, because Mueller demoted Strzok has soon as the texts were found—and because he and his team have had ample time to review any work Strzok did to confirm he'd merely created the *perception* of a conflict of interest, rather than actually "going rogue"—all is well.
42/ Before I get to the "insurance policy" remark itself, please note this: Strzok would've had to throw away his 25-year career in the FBI to allow his personal political opinions—which *all agents have*—to influence his work in the most high-profile and public case of his life.
43/ That is, had Strzok actually tried to "fix" the case against Trump, he would indeed not only have lost his job completely, he'd be looking at prison time. Which is why there's no reason to think when Mueller conducted his review of Strzok's work he found anything of the kind.
44/ Both Mueller *and* FBI Inspector General Horowitz—each in the midst of their own investigation—have authority to charge Strzok if they find the barest hint of *case* misconduct (and opposed to just a violation of workplace regulations) in reviewing his work on the Trump case.
45/ So Congress should allow Mueller and Horowitz to continue their work, as that work *includes* reviewing any issue with Strzok's *work product*. Oversight is great, but is premature when (a) it interrupts an underlying investigation, and (b) precedes an internal investigation.
46/ This is the one objection to their hysteria that Trump's GOP allies in Congress can *never* overcome: their attempt at oversight of the FBI—even if valid—is premature. They're trying to preempt an internal investigation *and* are impeding the broader underlying investigation.
47/ Given Trump's allies in Congress know *exactly* how Congressional oversight works—it is *not* to be applied (a) in advance of an ongoing internal investigation, or (b) under circumstances in which it makes impossible the underlying investigation—their actions are circumspect.
48/ But let's return to Strzok's pre-election text to his girlfriend (Tweet #33).

Is Strzok's reference to an "insurance policy" evidence of some kind of "Deep State" coup conspiracy, as our conspiracy theorist president and his conspiracy theory agents in the House claim?

49/ Strzok was responding to his girlfriend's suggestion the FBI do something *illegal and unprofessional* prior to the election that would've been *pro-Trump*—she was saying the FBI should drop its investigation of Trump-Russia ties because Trump was likely to lose the election.
50/ So Strzok's girlfriend *agreed* with Trump's own analysis—Trump was going to lose the election—and basically was saying, "Why not just let these allegations go?"

She was making the argument that Trump should get preferential treatment because he was—as a politician—a loser.
51/ The position taken by Strzok's girlfriend—beyond being one Trump would have *wholeheartedly supported at the time*—was also deeply unprofessional, because that's not how criminal investigations work. Evidence of a crime *must* be pursued, no matter *who* the defendant may be.
52/ So if Strzok were a good man, what he'd do—despite it being his girlfriend (so he'd naturally want to be as agreeable as possible)—would be to defend FBI policy, which required not dropping the investigation for the reason she'd suggested.

And guess what—that's what he did.
53/ So what he said to her was that when the FBI has evidence a crime may've been committed, it pursues the evidence even if the conspiracy the evidence alleges—in this case, to steal an election—may not be successful. Because rule of law is an insurance policy against surprises.
54/ For instance, let's say the FBI uncovers enough evidence a man is trying to import child sex slaves into Brooklyn via hot-air balloons that it initiates an investigation.

The fact that that plot is exceedingly unlikely to be successful doesn't mean you don't investigate it.
55/ In both that hypothetical and the real-world Trump case, continued FBI investigation of a valid evidentiary lead is an "insurance policy" against the possibility the conspiracy that lead details is successful.

And Agent Strzok's reading of the rule of law is *exactly right*.
56/ The only other part of Strzok's text is his expression of a wish that he could adopt his girlfriend's anti-rule of law but pro-Trump position. In context, that wish was based on the complexity, sensitivity, and stress-inducement associated with the Trump-Russia investigation.
57/ Strzok was saying to his girlfriend that the *easy road* in his situation *would've been* to dump the rule of law and therefore dump the Trump-Russia investigation—but that the consolation of not doing so was that, if Trump were guilty and he won, the probe would disclose it.
58/ That Strzok strongly opposed Trump's election—as did his girlfriend—was immaterial to the point he was making, especially as (at the time of his text) part of his opinion on Trump being elected was *tied to the evidence he'd seen that Trump was part of a criminal conspiracy*.
59/ Strzok is under no obligation to want a man as president who—as Strzok well knew—was facing credible allegations of treasonous conduct. So it was, Strzok was saying, a happy coincidence that doing his job happened to coincide with his personal opinions. It's just that simple.
60/ Defense lawyers are obligated to zealously defend every client, but may be particularly *happy* to do so with innocent clients. That doesn't mean they won't *always* do their job to the best of their ability—they will—it just means they're *allowed to make that observation*.
CONCLUSIONS #1/ Agent Peter Strzok was rightly demoted for conduct that had nothing at all to do with Trump or his work product. Investigation into that work product is ongoing and shouldn't be tampered with. We have no indication Strzok acted dishonorably as to his work product.
CONCLUSIONS #2/ Attacks on Strzok deviate wildly from typical Congressional oversight practice and are part of a historic attempt (a) to delegitimize U.S. law enforcement agencies, and, even worse, to do so (b) to aid in the cover-up of criminal activity by a U.S. president. /end
SOURCES/ Here's the federal statute for Treason, a statute which in *no way whatsoever* applies to FBI Agent Peter Strzok (or his girlfriend) for a *long list* of both legal and factual reasons, some discussed in this thread and some not:…
SOURCES/ Here's Trump calling for Strzok—a possible witness in the Trump-Russia investigation—to be imprisoned and maybe executed, an action which, based upon DOJ responsiveness to Trump's demands (and his insistence on same) *does* fall under Obstruction:…
NOTE/ News Trump sought to use the levers of government to influence the DOJ on the Sessions recusal is *most important* as evidence he believed he could indirectly control FBI charging decisions, which belief establishes "corrupt intent" for a *range* of Obstruction violations.
NOTE/ I refer repeatedly to "Strzok's girlfriend" not to diminish this talented, successful DOJ attorney but because Trump and his allies are furiously smearing Strzok but his girlfriend's name has been slightly less central.

I didn't want to drag her further into this madness.
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