Peter Strzok, a veteran FBI agent who wrote derogatory text messages about candidate Donald Trump, filed a lawsuit Tuesday charging that the bureau caved to “unrelenting pressure” from the president when it fired him, the Associated Press reports. Strzok alleges he was unfairly punished for expressing his political opinions, and that the Justice Department violated his privacy when it shared hundreds of his text messages with reporters. “This campaign to publicly vilify Special Agent Strzok contributed to the FBI’s ultimate decision to unlawfully terminate him,” the lawsuit says, “as well as to frequent incidents of public and online harassment and threats of violence to Strzok and his family that began when the texts were first disclosed to the media and continue to this day.”
The complaint revisits a political drama that was seized on by conservative critics of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as proof that the bureau was biased against Trump. It provides new details about the circumstances of Strzok’s firing, months after a congressional hearing in which he insisted that his personal views never influenced his work. Multiple investigations are underway examining whether the FBI acted properly during the Russia investigation, and Strzok remains a frequent target of Trump’s scornful tweets. A Justice Department inspector general report focused on the early days of the Russia probe is expected to be released soon. Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent who helped lead FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, was removed from Mueller’s team after texts with FBI lawyer Lisa Page came to light. He was fired last August. The lawsuit seeks reinstatement, back pay and a declaration that the government violated his rights.