A former FBI agent who worked on then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election said it’s “clear” that President Donald Trump was “compromised by the Russians.”
Former FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believed the Kremlin gained “leverage” over Trump through certain “financial entanglements.”
“Look, I think it is clear: I believed at the time in 2016, and I continue to believe that Donald Trump is compromised by the Russians,” Strzok told host Chuck Todd. “And when I say that, I mean that they hold leverage over him that makes him incapable of placing the national interests, the national security, ahead of his own.”
Mueller in his final report outlined several contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives but left it up to Congress to take action on his findings.
Both the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate confirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the intention of helping Trump win. But the parties remained divided on whether Trump aides colluded with Russian operatives leading up to the election.
Trump denied seeking Russia’s help during the election, despite publicly asking the country to hack into then-Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails in July 2016.
“One of the largest ways that ... foreign governments gain leverage ― certainly in the case of the president ― is through financial entanglements,” Strzok said Sunday. He added: “Those interactions have placed him in the position where the Russians have leverage over him and are able to influence his actions.”
Strzok assisted Mueller’s investigation for about two months in 2017 before he was removed over anti-Trump text messages he sent to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair at the time.
Page resigned from the FBI in May 2018, a few months before the agency fired Strzok over the texts. Both Page and Strzok sued the FBI and Justice Department over the release of their text message exchange.
Trump repeatedly argued that the text messages between Page and Strzok proved that the Russia investigation was rigged against him. But the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report in December 2019 that found political bias did not influence the probe.
Strzok outlined the threat he believes Trump poses to national security in a new book released Tuesday, based on his more than 20 years of experience recruiting spies for the U.S. and identifying foreign agents within the country.
Asked Sunday if believed the Mueller report determined there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, Strzok said, “Absolutely not.”
“I concluded the opposite,” Strzok said.
He added: “Mueller was focusing on violations of the law. And the standard to be able to establish in a courtroom that something occurred is very, very different from the standard that a counterintelligence expert or intelligence person would look at and judge whether or not that caused them concern.”