Trump ordered to give evidence in lawsuit by ex-FBI figures he targeted

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok is suing the Department of Justice to regain his old job   (Getty Images)
Former FBI agent Peter Strzok is suing the Department of Justice to regain his old job (Getty Images)

Former president Donald Trump will have to answer questions from attorneys representing two former FBI employees who are seeking redress for what they characterise as unfair retaliation against them for having investigated alleged ties between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government.

In a short, 277 word ruling issued through the US District Court for the District of Columbia’s electronic filing system, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said attorneys for former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI attorney Lisa Page can depose Mr Trump and FBI Director Christopher Wray under oath and declined to grant Department of Justice motions to quash subpoenas for testimony from both the FBI director and the twice-impeached ex-president.

Judge Jackson set a 24 March deadline for President Joe Biden to determine whether he intends to invoke executive privilege to block testimony on certain topics that were not specified in her order, and stressed that the ruling did not “resolve any questions related to either the Presidential communications prong or the deliberative process prong of the executive privilege”.

Mr Strzok, who was the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, was fired from the bureau in 2018 over text messages he’d exchanged with Ms Page, who was an FBI attorney with whom he was having an extramarital affair, while the two of them were involved investigating alleged ties between Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government.

The messages, which were made public by GOP figures in an effort to discredit the probe into the then-president, expressed disdain for Mr Trump. Mr Strzok had accepted a senior FBI official’s offer of a demotion and suspension for two months without pay as of 8 August 2018, but the next day he was fired.

In court documents, Mr Strzok — who is seeking reinstatement and back pay — alleges that the decision to fire him “was the result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies in Congress and the media,” including a campaign consisting of “constant tweets and other disparaging statements by the President, as well as direct appeals from the President to then- Attorney General Jefferson Sessions” and Mr Wray.

Mr Strzok and Ms Page (in a separate lawsuit) also allege that the FBI and Department of Justice violated the Privacy Act by making their text messages public despite the lack of any public interest in releasing the messages, which have made both of them into oft-targeted hate objects in the eyes of Mr Trump’s supporters.

Ms Page is seeking financial damages to recoup losses to her earning capacity from the reputational damage caused by Mr Trump’s frequent attacks on her, attorneys fees, childcare costs during interviews and appearances before Congress, as well as “the cost of therapy to cope with unwanted national media exposure and harassment” brought on by the disclosure of her messages with Mr Strzok.