WASHINGTON (AP) — A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election meddling after the discovery of an exchange of anti-Trump text messages, a person familiar with the matter said Saturday.
The removal of the agent, who also had worked on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, occurred this summer. The person who discussed the matter with The Associated Press was not authorized to speak about it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said Mueller removed the agent, Peter Strzok, from the team “immediately upon learning of the allegations.”
The decision was likely in keeping with the Justice Department’s desire to insulate the investigators from claims of political bias or favoritism. President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have sought to discredit the investigation, in part by claiming a close relationship between Mueller and fired FBI Director James Comey and by pointing to political contributions to Democratic candidates made by some lawyers on the team.
So far, four people have been charged as a result of Mueller’s investigation. The most recent charge occurred Friday when former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
The nature of the messages Strzok exchanged and with whom was not immediately clear. The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating the matter.
The New York Times first reported the agent’s removal. The FBI declined to comment.
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