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DOJ still opposes Trump subpoena in Peter Strzok civil case against FBI

By Tierney Sneed, CNN

The Justice Department reiterated its arguments Monday for why it is seeking to block a subpoena for former President Donald Trump’s testimony that is being sought by a top ex-FBI agent who sued over his 2018 termination.

In its latest court filing in the dispute, the department argued that the former agent, Peter Strzok, had “made no showing that former President Trump played any role” in the decision to fire him, which was made by the FBI’s then-deputy director, David Bowdich. Strzok was fired from the FBI after Trump had repeatedly called for his ouster.

“Nor has Mr. Strzok provided any reason why he cannot first ask Mr. Bowdich whether he was in fact influenced by former President Trump’s ‘pressure campaign,’ which he concedes is part of establishing his First Amendment claim,” the Justice Department’s filing said.

The Justice Department sought to quash the subpoena in January, as the department has argued that Strzok must exhaust other avenues for obtaining the information that is relevant to his lawsuit before seeking the former President’s testimony.

The dispute is playing out as part of a lawsuit Strzok filed alleging that the Justice Department, in how it went about firing him and publicly releasing his texts, had violated his constitutional rights and the Privacy Act.

Before the FBI fired Strzok, he had been removed in 2017 from the team led by then-special counsel Robert Mueller that was investigating Russia’s 2016 interference in the US election. An internal investigation had revealed texts he’d exchanged with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom Strzok had had an extramarital relationship, that could be read as exhibiting political bias. Strzok’s involvement in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton private email investigation also attracted Trump’s ire after the revelation of the texts

A 2018 report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that the Strzok and Page texts “cast a cloud” over the credibility of Clinton investigation, although he found no evidence “that these political views directly affected the specific investigative decisions that we reviewed.” A 2019 inspector general report of the Russia probe likewise cleared it of political bias.

Page has brought her own lawsuit alleging that the Justice Department violated the Privacy Act by releasing their texts. Their cases have been consolidated for purposes of discovery.

In a March filing asking the court to reject the Justice Department’s request to quash the subpoena, Strzok asserted that “only Donald Trump can testify directly about his motivations for his actions regarding Strzok, and his state of mind is a central issue in this case.”

“Even if Plaintiff first deposed other officials, such as Mr. Bowdich, or FBI Director Wray, they would at most be able to testify about what he said, not what he intended when he said it,” Strzok said in the March filing, which also said the degree of malice is a relevant question for the damages Strzok is seeking in the lawsuit.

The Justice Department argued Monday that “whether or not former President Trump intended to influence Mr. Bowdich is immaterial.”

The only question relevant to Strzok’s lawsuit, the Justice Department said, “is whether or not former President Trump (whatever he intended) did influence Mr. Bowdich. But that is a question properly addressed only to Mr. Bowdich, or others directly involved in the removal process.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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