September 8, 2020
Peter Strzok— the FBI counterintelligence agent whose spiteful texts about President Donald Trump took him down; along with girlfriend and FBI lawyer Lisa Page; and arguably, the Russia investigation, itself—says in a new book that, even if Trump didn’t formally conspire with the Russian election interference operation, the president was badly compromised.
In the new release, entitled Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Strzok states that Trump was exposed because of his questionable business dealings, the hush money paid on his behalf to silence women, shady transactions at his charity—and, most importantly, “his lies about his Russia dealings,” including his secret 2015 effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even as he told the world that he had no business with Russia.
“Putin knew he had lied. And Trump knew that Putin knew—a shared understanding that provided the framework for a potentially coercive relationship between the president of the United States and the leader of one of our greatest adversaries,” writes Strzok.
“This simple fact could explain something that made no sense otherwise: why Trump repeatedly … [chose] the course of action that made little sense in the context of U.S. national security but that clearly benefited Russia,” he writes.
And while—according to NBC News, which has obtained a copy of the book—Strzok reveals no new evidence that the president acted as a tool of Russia, the author’s inside account provides a detailed refutation of the notion that a group of anti-Trump denizens of the deep state cooked up the Russia “hoax,” as Trump likes to call it, to take down a president they didn’t support.
To the contrary, as he tells it, career public servants inside the FBI and the Justice Department were gobsmacked in 2016 by what they uncovered about a presidential campaign that seemed to find unlimited time to meet with Russians, practically inviting exploitation by a foreign adversary.
“I was skeptical that all the different threads amounted to anything more than bumbling incompetence, a confederacy of dunces who were too dumb to collude,” Strzok writes, summing up his view of the case for a Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia before he was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in July 2017 over his biased texts. “
In a statement to NBC News, White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern called Strzok’s account “utter nonsense” and argued that neither Mueller nor Congress “…[has] found any wrongdoing by the president.” He added: “Strzok is a joke, and his book isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. ”
Whether crimes were committed is a different question from whether Russia had a hold over the president, however. Who was supposed to answer that counterintelligence question? Who would look at whether Trump had, in fact, benefited from massive investments by Russians, as his son once said he did? Or whether there was any reason to think Putin could blackmail him?
Strzok, 50, an Army veteran who worked most of his two-decade FBI career chasing Russian spies, says it was the job of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. But Strzok writes that at the time he left the investigation in 2017, “we were still looking for the right way to investigate those counterintelligence concerns.”
Research contact: @NBCNews