Peter Strzok, the FBI agent in a storm of controversy over his anti-Trump tweets and Congressional testimony, spent time living in Iran and Africa during his childhood, old newspaper clippings about his father, who is also named Peter Paul Strzok, show.
The elder Strzok is a former U.S. Army major who spent significant time in the Middle East and African continent, according to the clippings, which show the Strzok family also has deep ties to Wisconsin and Minnesota. Peter Strzok II, the FBI agent, does not have a lengthy record trail online, at least before his Donald Trump controversies, and his bio has thus been a bit of a mystery. However, his dad was frequently featured in local newspaper articles in the 1970s, 1980s and even through the 1990s, and the elder Strzok’s biography helps flesh out the background of the son.
Another newspaper clipping confirms that Major Peter Strzok and his wife welcomed a son, Peter, on the FBI agent’s birth date. The family name goes far back. World War II draft records show there was also a Peter Paul Strzok who was born in Thorp, Wisconsin in 1891. The FBI agent’s father is 82-years-old. Military registers confirm the father was an Army major. Old phone directories give Peter Strzok, the agent, as Peter P. Strzok II. The FBI agent embroiled in the controversy also served in the U.S. Army.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Elder Strzok Once Lived in Iran With His Son & Wife, Who Taught at an American School in Tehran
In 1979, the Eau Claire, Wisconsin Leader-Telegram ran an article that discussed Peter Strzok, the dad. It said that Strzok, the dad, had just left Iran that February. The newspaper said that the dad “hopes the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini will stabilize the country.”
The article noted: “Strzok’s wife and eight-year-old son, Peter, returned to the U.S. Jan. 6.” His wife, the agent’s mother, Virginia, was a teacher at the American school in Tehran and Peter Strzok, the father, “was working for a firm which sold and serviced 2,000 helicopters for the Iranian government.”
It quoted the elder Strzok as saying, “I’d like very much to go back to Iran,” and it adds that Strzok spent “two terms of military service and seven months as a civilian in the country.”
It says that Strzok was a support unit manager for Bell Helicopter, Inc., and says the paper asked Strzok about the “issue of treatment of Americans in Iran.”
He said the “resentment of America was because Iranians linked the U.S. involved (sic) with the Shah,” explained the Leader-Telegram.
The article quotes Strzok as saying, “When you have a country where hundreds were killed and only two Americans out of the thousands in that country were slain, you can’t make a case of physical violence against Americans,” noting that no Americans were killed in the attack on the American embassy. He said that he hoped “Khomeini would be able to unite those factions and form a stable government,” the newspaper reported.
According to the article, the elder Strzok returned to Iran in July 1978 after retiring as a Lt. Col. with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The article concluded by saying the elder Strzok was planning to fly to Saudi Arabia next to “check on a new job with a construction enterprise.”
Online records now give the elder Strzok as living in North Carolina but with previous addresses in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Virginia. According to Guide Star, in 1986, Peter Strzok the dad was listed as the principal agent for a non-profit called International Agricultural Development with the North Carolina address. The non-profit was listed as an agency to facilitate the growth of rural organizations.
An old newspaper article from 1969 also referred to “Major Peter Strzok, chairman, Reserve Officers Training Corps Department, Lake Superior State College in Sault Ste. Marie.”
2. Strzok’s Dad Was Developing a Program to Send Midwestern Farm Equipment to Iraq & Once Argued for Military Censorship
A 2003 article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Strzok, the father, was living in Washburn, Wisconsin and “is independently organizing a program that involves sending reconditioned tractors, tillers, and other aid to northern Iraq, where conditions are more secure than in the country’s middle and southern regions.”
The article says that Strzok, the father, “formerly directed humanitarian and development programs in the Middle East.”
Peter Strzok, the dad, is also mentioned in a column that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran in 1991. The column is called “If you ran the paper,” and the headline on the column reads, “Reader says he sees need for military censorship.”
The article says Strzok “was disturbed” by a column the writer ran about a reporter who used a fax in a war zone to “avoid censorship.” Strzok also took issue with the writer’s opinion that “the Pentagon’s effort to control access to the news backfired in some ways.”
Strzok asked the newspaper, “Was he placing British commandos at risk by detailing their operations and methods used?”
Strzok added, “I spent two tours in Vietnam, two in Saudi Arabia and three in Iran. I think I understand the absolute need for reporter oversight in combat actions.” He called it a “professional unable to police itself.”
A 2003 article in the Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter newspaper in Wisconsin reprinted an Associated Press story that reported Strzok, the elder, “thinks the Midwest’s old sheds and barns contain something that could help Iraq’s shaky economy: farm equipment.”
He planned to collect the equipment in Ashland, Wisconsin, recondition it and then truck it to Duluth, Minnesota to ship it to Iraq.
He also wrote a column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1986. In it, he described visiting the Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Gambia to “see the condition of the crops.”
3. Strzok, the Dad, Was Born to a Family That Farmed in Rural Northern Wisconsin
Peter Strzok, the dad, is the son of Michael John Strzok, who died at age 96, in 2002 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, according to his obit. Michael Strzok was formerly of Thorp, Clark County and Gilman, Wisconsin. The funeral service was in a Catholic church.
It was a farming family. Michael Strzok “was born Aug. 19, 1905, in Thorp to John and Maryanne (nee Polnaszek) Strzok. He married Josephine Badzinski on Sept. 2, 1929, and she died on Nov. 1, 1997. They farmed in rural Gilman where he expanded to trucking, livestock sales and became a partner in the Mattes Livestock Sales. He was also in partnership in Gilman Farm Service,” his obituary says.
Michael Strzok had 11 children, of which Peter Paul Strzok, the FBI agent’s dad, is one of them. The other Strzok children (the aunts and uncles of the FBI agent) include an Arizona doctor and a priest based in Kenya, Africa named Fr. James Strzok. The FBI agent’s mother is named Virginia Sue Strzok, the obit says.
4. When Peter Strzok Was Growing Up, His Dad Moved the Family to Africa & Then Worked in Haiti
A 1983 article in The Bismarck Tribune said that Peter Strzok, the father, worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helping “the governments of underdeveloped nations.”
After he retired, he “began working with Catholic Relief Services, this time dealing directly with the struggling farm families in the impoverished African nation of Upper Volta,” the newspaper article reported.
After three years in Upper Volta, the elder Strzok took an assignment as director of Catholic Relief Services in Haiti. One goal: Reduce the infant mortality rate. He also worked in a food assistance program. The article stated that he was married with a then-13-year-old son. (The FBI agent Strzok is now 48.)
“He said his family has a good attitude about the lifestyle, but every now and then his son wishes for a television video game,” the newspaper reported, adding the father said his “value system changed when he moved to Upper Volta.” People “spend their time working to survive,” according to the newspaper.
In 1983, the Wisconsin State Journal also ran a story on Peter Strzok’s dad. The story says the elder Strzok served 21 years in the Army before retiring. Instead, he “moved his family to Upper Volta, an almost barren nation in Africa, where he is program director for Catholic Relief Services,” says the article.
The newspaper reported that the elder Strzok ran a program teaching farmers how to be more effective. The article said Strzok grew up on a dairy farm.
Another article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram in 1981 quoted the father as saying the Upper Volta area of Africa was “very primitive” and “rough.” It said that he ran a $25 million program.
“He and his wife and son have lived in Africa for three years,” said the article.
“I really believe the world has to address the problem of developing countries,” he told the newspaper.
5. The Younger Strzok Attended High School in Minnesota & Then Entered the Army Himself
A 1987 article in the St. Cloud Daily Times lists the younger Peter Strzok as Peter P. Strzok II, of Minneapolis, son of Peter and Virginia Strzok. “Peter plans to attend Georgetown University, Washington D.C.,” the article says, listing his activities in high school at St. John’s Prep as golf club, speech, National Honor Society, student newspaper and yearbook.
Strzok graduated from Georgetown University, a list of donors to the university showed. Strzok earned his master’s degree from the school in 2013, the list indicated. In 2012, Strzok and his wife, Melissa Hodgman, also a Georgetown alum, donated between $2,500-4,999 to their alma mater.
The Wall Street Journal has called Strzok “one of the FBI’s most experienced counterintelligence agents.” Hodgman started working in the enforcement division at the SEC in 2008 as a staff attorney and was promoted to assistant director in 2012.
Peter Strzok is a former Army officer, according to The New York Times. Little is known about Strzok’s time in the military, however.