See Rep. Gowdy’s questioning of Strzok:
Confronted with a text message in which he vowed to a colleague “we’ll stop” Donald Trump from being elected, top FBI counter-terrorism agent Peter Strzok refused Thursday to disclose how many interviews he had conducted regarding alleged Trump-Russia collusion prior to the infamous August 2016 exchange with his then-paramour, bureau lawyer Lisa Page.
In a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, Strzok told the oversight chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., he had been advised by FBI counsel not to answer the question.
The House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., told Strzok he was under subpoena and required to answer.
Judiciary ranking member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., interjected, declaring the chairman had put Strzok in an “impossible position.”
After a heated exchange in which other members engaged in cross talk, Goodlatte concluded Strzok might be called back as the committee considers a contempt citation against him.
Strzok was the lead investigator in the probe of Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information and also of alleged Trump-Russia collusion. He was a member of Robert Mueller’s special counsel team investigating the Russia matter and was removed after anti-Trump text messages were made public by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Last month, Strzok lost his security clearance and was escorted from FBI headquarters in Washington.
In his June report, Horowitz said that while the text messages “cast a cloud” over the bureau, he found no specific evidence that Strzok’s political opinions impacted his work on the Clinton investigation. However, in testimony before Congress, Horowitz said the IG office is still reviewing the FBI’s investigation of Russia collusion.
Strzok: Hearing a ‘victory notch in Putin’s belt’
Strzok charged in his opening statement that the congressional focus on his bias plays into the hands of “our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”
“I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart,” Strzok said. “As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it is profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in.”
He said his opinions arose from a sense of “deep patriotism.”
“Having worked in national security for two decades and proudly served in the U.S. Army, those opinions were expressed out of deep patriotism and an unyielding belief in our great American democracy,” Strzok said.
In a heated exchange with Gowdy, who said Strzok displayed “textbook bias,” the FBI official defiantly argued there were FBI officials above him and staffers below him to check his work.
Strzok said he didn’t “appreciate” how the congressman characterized the relationship between his political views and his investigations of Clinton and Trump, asserting Mueller removed him because of the “appearance” of bias, not because of bias itself.
“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok,” Gowdy declared. “I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”
Strzok later launched into an impassioned defense, asserting, regarding the accusation his personal political views impacted his work, said the “suggestion that I, in some dark chamber in the FBI, would somehow cast aside these procedures … and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me.”
Democratic members of the committees responded to Strzok with applause.
Goodlatte urged Democratic colleagues to consider “how you would feel if you found out that the chief agent investigating you as a member of Congress was making these comments: ‘F Trump,’ ‘Trump is a disaster,’ ‘Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support’ – or, perhaps most alarmingly and revealingly, ‘We’ll stop it’ – referring directly to Mr. Trump’s candidacy for President.”
Pressed about the text in which he vowed “we’ll stop” Trump from being elected, Strzok maintained the “we” was not a cadre of FBI employees working to defeat Trump but the American people and the democratic process of electing presidents.
Strzok was interviewed on Capitol Hill last month in a closed hearing for more than 11 hours. Republican lawmakers moved to have a redacted version of the transcript made public.
Page, with whom Strzok was having an affair at the time of the text messages, refused to comply with a subpoena from Congress to appear Wednesday for a closed-door deposition. House Republicans followed up with a letter to Page’s attorney warning she could face contempt charges if she didn’t appear at Thursday’s public hearing with Strzok or at a closed-door deposition Friday.
Page has agreed to a private interview Friday, according to Goodlatte.