- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2020

The special counsel’s investigation found no collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, but former FBI agent Peter Strzok said he still believes President Trump is “compromised by the Russians.”

“I believed at the time in 2016, and I continue to believe, that Donald Trump is compromised by the Russians,” Mr. Strzok said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “When I say that, I mean that they hold leverage over him that makes him incapable of placing the national interest, the national security ahead of his own” interest.

Mr. Strzok cited the president’s financial dealings through the Trump Organization, which includes hundreds of business entities.

“One of the largest ways that people in foreign governments gain leverage, certainly in the case of the president, is through financial entanglements,” Mr. Strzok said. “I think when you take a look at the Trump financial enterprise, particularly its relationship with Russian, with Russian moneys and potentially those related to organized crime and other elements, that those interactions have placed him in a position where the Russians have leverage over him and are able to influence his actions.”

The interview came with Mr. Strzok on a media tour to promote his book, “Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump,” released last week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Mr. Strzok famously carried out an email exchange during the campaign with FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, in which he vowed to derail Mr. Trump’s presidential bid, at one point texting, “We’ll stop it,” at another point discussing an “insurance policy” if Mr. Trump were elected.

Mr. Strzok admitted Sunday that he had regrets sending about the texts, saying they were used to “bludgeon” the agency.

“I certainly regret sending the text messages that were absolutely weaponized and used to bludgeon the work of the FBI, the work of the special counsel,” Mr. Strzok said. “I’ll always regret that.”

Mr. Strzok, whom Mr. Trump called “a disgrace to our country,” has made appearances since the book’s release on MSNBC, “CBS This Morning” and NBC’s “Today” show, prompting eye rolls from Republicans about the former agent’s credibility.

“Meet the Press & @chucktodd’s ‘insurance policy’ to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t win re-election: Peter Strzok,” tweeted Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, Pennsylvania Republican. “Only the leftist media would still consider [one] of the key players in the Trump resistance a ‘credible’ source.”

Mr. Strzok was fired in 2018 over his anti-Trump texts, but a 2019 Justice Department inspector general’s report found that the investigation into the Trump campaign was not motivated by bias.

The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation fell apart after Mr. Trump was elected, leading to the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey and dealing a blow to the agency’s reputation for political neutrality, but Mr. Strzok defended the probe.

“We certainly considered deeply, with just argument after argument and soul searching about whether or not we were doing the right thing,” Mr. Strzok said. “But conclusively, the concerns we had about Russia were merited and it was the appropriate thing to do to look into them.”

While Mr. Strzok has been accused by Republicans of politicizing the agency with the investigation into a presidential candidate during an election year, he said it was the Trump administration that has hurt the FBI’s independence.

“I am deeply concerned though what another four years of President Trump will do to destroy the traditional independence and objectivity of our government,” Mr. Strzok said.

But there were further revelations Friday that led to conservative cries of “foul” against the agency.

The staff of special counsel Robert Mueller turned in 27 government smartphones that had been “wiped” of all data, including prosecutor Andrew Weissman’s iPhone, according to Justice Department data released in response to a public-information request by Judicial Watch.

The cellphones used by Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page had been restored to factory settings, prompting Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton to call for “a criminal investigation of this destruction of evidence and potential obstruction of justice and other crimes.”

• Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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