Special counsel's Russia probe loses top FBI investigator

PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election at the Capitol, June 21, 2017. PlayJ. Scott Applewhite/AP
WATCH Special counsel's Russia probe loses top FBI investigator

One of the FBI's top investigators, tapped by special counsel Robert Mueller just weeks ago to help lead the probe of Russian meddling in last year's presidential election, has left Mueller's team, sources tell ABC News.

The recent departure of the FBI veteran, Peter Strzok, is the first known hitch in a secretive probe that, by all public accounts, is charging full steam ahead. Just last week, news surfaced that Mueller's team had executed a search warrant at the Virginia home of Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort. And the week before that, ABC News confirmed that Mueller is now using a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., to collect documents and other evidence.

It's unclear why Strzok stepped away from Mueller's team of nearly two dozen lawyers, investigators and administrative staffers. Strzok, who has spent much of his law enforcement career working counterintelligence cases and has been unanimously praised by government officials who spoke with ABC News, is now working for the FBI's human resources division.

He is no stranger to complex and controversial investigations.

As chief of the FBI's counterespionage section last year, he helped oversee the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was the secretary of state, and he took part in the bureau's interview of her.

Within weeks of the end of the Clinton probe, Strzok found his office facing a new challenge: investigating Russia's alleged efforts to influence last year's presidential election, including hacking of Democratic National Committee computers.

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.