One of the recent additions to the FBI’s Russia investigation has reportedly abruptly left the team led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
FBI veteran Peter Strzok has, for unknown reasons, stepped away from the investigation, according to ABC News. In total, the probe comprises of more than 25 lawyers, investigators, and administrative staff.
Politico’s cybersecurity reporter was puzzled by the development and even wondered if Strzok could be behind alleged leaks to the media:
FBI counterintelligence agent moves from special counsel's office to FBI's human resources division. That's…odd. https://t.co/lTgtSaQoXc
— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) August 16, 2017
Strzok — who in 2016 helmed the FBI’s counterespionage wing, overseeing the investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure at the State Department — has spent most of his career working in counterintelligence.
Now he’s working in the bureau’s human resources branch.
CNN reported in July that Mueller hand-picked Strzok for the team, knowing the FBI agent helped manage the initial Russia investigation in the summer of 2016.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
By all accounts, the investigation — which is exploring potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin — was just beginning to heat up. In late July, the team executed a search warrant at the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, who briefly served as campaign chairman for then-candidate Trump.
But according to the White House, the raid was unnecessary.
“If the FBI wanted the documents, they could just ask [Manafort] and he would have turned them over,” an unnamed adviser said at the time.
For his part, Trump has repeatedly denied ever colluding with Russia during the presidential election.