A contentious hearing on Capitol Hill that frequently tuned into a shouting match saw House Republicans echoing President Donald Trump’s claims that FBI agent Peter Strzok’s involvement in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is proof that the investigation is biased.
During the joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, Republican members repeatedly attacked Strzok over the anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page during the presidential campaign.
Strzok struck back at the lawmakers, however, with the agent claiming his personal opinions did have any impact on his work on the Russia investigation.
“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok said in his opening statement.
Strzok also took issue with the hearing itself, which he called “another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”
Republicans were unswayed by Strzok’s defense, leading to a heated exchange involving House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
Gowdy claimed Strzok was fired from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because the bias shown by his anti-Trump texts made him “unfit to objectively and dispassionately investigate.”
In response, Strzok argued he was removed from Mueller’s team because of concerns about the “appearance” of bias and said he did not “appreciate” Gowdy misrepresenting his testimony.
“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate,” Gowdy shot back. “I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations in 2016.”
Strzok suggested the idea an agent’s personal bias would be allowed to impact an investigation “deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.”
When Gowdy sought specific information about the Russia investigation, Strzok said he was directed by the FBI’s legal counsel not to discuss the ongoing probe.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virg., demanded Strzok answer, causing the hearing to devolve into chaos as Republican and Democratic members shouted at one another.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, previously described the GOP’s investigation as a “political charade—a platform to elevate far-right conspiracy theories and undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing criminal investigation of the President and his campaign aides.”
The issue may continue to attract attention in the coming days, as Page has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees for a transcribed interview.
The closed-door interview is scheduled to begin on Friday afternoon and continue on Monday, with Goodlatte calling the decision “long overdue.”
“Lisa Page is a key witness in our investigation and we need to hear from her about her role related to certain decisions made by the Department and Bureau,” Goodlatte said.
Page defied a congressional subpoena to testify on Wednesday amid claims she did not have time to prepare, and Republicans threatened to hold her in contempt of Congress.
by RTTNews Staff Writer
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