By Michael S. Schmidt, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman
WASHINGTON – The special counsel, Robert Mueller, removed a top FBI agent from his investigation into Russian election meddling after the Justice Department’s inspector general began examining whether the agent sent text messages that expressed anti-Trump political views, according to three people briefed on the matter.
The agent, Peter Strzok, is considered one of the most experienced and trusted FBI counterintelligence investigators. He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.
But Strzok was reassigned this summer from Mueller’s investigation to the FBI’s human resources department, where he has been stationed since. The people briefed on the case said the transfer followed the discovery of text messages in which Strzok and a colleague reacted to news events, such as presidential debates, in ways that could appear anti-Trump.
A lawyer for Strzok declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said that “we are aware of the allegation and are taking any and all appropriate steps.”