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Sept. 8, 2020, 7:15 a.m. EDT

Peter Strzok says he saw Trump as counterintelligence risk while at FBI — and still does

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By Associated Press

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Even now, including in an interview Monday with MSNBC , Strzok is of the view that Trump poses a national-security threat. “Without exaggeration,” he said, “President Trump’s counterintelligence vulnerabilities are exponentially greater than [those of] any president in modern history.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation revealed significant contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia but found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy to charge crimes.

Strzok documents pivotal moments during the investigation, recounting for instance how then–national-security adviser Michael Flynn “baldly lied” to him and another agent about his Russian contacts even though Flynn had not shown customary signs of deceit agents are trained to look for.

Though Trump supporters contend the interview was designed to get Flynn to lie, Strzok says the FBI actually gave him multiple prompts to refresh his memory. While Attorney General William Barr has said the interview was done without a legitimate purpose, Strzok says it was necessary to better understand the Trump orbit’s ties to Russia and Flynn’s own “hidden negotiation with a foreign power that had just attacked our elections.”

Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Barr’s request — which Strzok called a miscarriage of justice in itself fueled by political interference from the White House, in a Monday interview with MSNBC — to dismiss the case is pending.

In another episode, he says then–Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked him to remain behind after a briefing and pressed him skeptically about a perjury investigation into Attorney General Jeff Sessions for statements made at his confirmation hearing. Sessions was never charged. Rosenstein declined to comment.

Strzok’s stint on Mueller’s team was short-lived, upended in the summer of 2017 by the inspector general’s discovery of anti-Trump text messages he’d exchanged during the campaign with an FBI lawyer with whom he had had an extramarital relationship.

He was summoned to meet with Mueller, who in a “soft voice” told Strzok he was being removed.

Transferred into the more bureaucratic Human Resources Division, Strzok says current Deputy Director David Bowdich reassured him the situation could be worse, including if Trump had gotten hold of the texts.

That’s exactly what happened two months later when news broke about the texts and the Justice Department disclosed them to reporters. By his own count, Strzok says, Trump has attacked him since then more than 100 times in tweets.

The text message leak is part of a lawsuit from Strzok, who also conveys discontent in his book at how his long FBI career ended.

After Trump accused Strzok of treason, Strzok appealed to the FBI for a statement condemning the remarks, but got none. The FBI scrambled to remove his access to categories of classified information so Director Chris Wray could inform lawmakers the next day. Senior leadership overturned a lower-level decision in firing him.

Today, Strzok is teaching at Georgetown University and watching from the outside for election interference from Russia, which he warns had information it did not use in 2016.

“I can’t talk in a lot of detail about that,” he added, “but I do think they returned those arrows to their quiver and made them better for this year.”

MarketWatch contributed.

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