Special counsel Robert Mueller this summer removed a top FBI agent from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election after the Justice Department's inspector general began investigating whether the agent sent text messages critical of President Donald Trump, according to a new report.
Peter Strzok, the agent in question, was reassigned from Mueller's investigation to the FBI's human resources department, where he has been stationed since, the New York Times reported Saturday.
The Times noted that Strzok is an experienced FBI counterintelligence investigator who had previously helped lead the probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server.
Strzok was transferred following the discovery of text messages that he and a colleague sent in which they reacted to news events, including presidential debates, in ways that could appear critical of Trump, according to people briefed on the matter.
"Immediately upon learning of the allegation, the special counsel's office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation," said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel's office.
Strzok was reassigned after the Justice Department's inspector general began examining whether the text messages expressed anti-Trump political views. The office said that its findings were part of a larger inquiry reviewing how the FBI handled investigations related to the 2016 election.
A lawyer for Strzok did not respond to several messages from the Times seeking comment.
"We are aware of the allegation and are taking any and all appropriate steps," a spokeswoman for the Justice Department said.
The Times noted that Strzok's transfer indicates that Mueller quickly addressed what could be perceived as bias by one of his agents. Trump has said on Twitter that the Russia investigation is a political "witch hunt."
It is unclear what Strzok said in his text messages, but FBI regulations do allow agents to express opinions "as an individual privately and publicly on political subjects and candidates."
Current and former colleagues of Strzok said that he has never shown any evidence that he allows his political views to influence the investigations he led.