Tags: Russia Probe | Trump Administration | strzok | fbi | hearing | putin

FBI's Strzok: Hearing Is 'Victory Notch in Putin's Belt'

Image: FBI's Strzok: Hearing Is 'Victory Notch in Putin's Belt'
(Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Thursday, 12 July 2018 11:37 AM

Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who exchanged anti-Trump texts with a bureau lawyer, denied he did anything improper, as he faced a hearing called by Republican lawmakers who say he personifies bias that tainted the agency’s Russia investigation early on.

“Not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok testified at a joint hearing Thursday of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees.

House Republicans say Strzok typified an anti-Trump attitude within the FBI and Justice Department that led to improper decisions in 2016. That was well before Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the continuing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and whether anyone close to Donald Trump colluded in it.

Strzok echoed Democrats’ response that he’s the target of a partisan effort to undercut or end the inquiry into the meddling that U.S. intelligence agencies found was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

‘Enemies’ Campaign’

“I strongly believe today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart," he said. Strzok said he was “one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of expressing that or exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

Anti-Trump text messages that Strzok exchanged in 2016 with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page -- with whom Strzok was in a romantic relationship -- have brought them both under intense investigative and congressional scrutiny.

“Mr. Strzok and others inside the FBI and DOJ turned our system of justice on its head. And that’s why we are here and why it matters,” House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in opening the hearing. “"We don’t want to read text message after text message dripping with bias against one of the two presidential candidates."

The hearing quickly deteriorated into partisan infighting after Strzok said the FBI counsel instructed him not to answer questions about the continuing Russia investigation. Over Democratic objections about badgering the witness, Goodlatte told Strzok his refusal to answer a question about how many witnesses were interviewed about possible Trump-Russia collusion from July 31 to Aug. 8, 2016 “places you at risk of a contempt citation.”

‘We’ll Stop’ Trump

Among the messages made public by the Justice Department’s inspector general was an exchange in August 2016 in which Page fretted that Trump might win the presidency and Strzok assured her “we’ll stop” him.

Strzok testified that the text “in no way suggested that either I or the FBI would in any way take action against the candidacy of Mr. Trump.”

Page has since left the FBI and Mueller, a Republican, removed Strzok from the Russia probe once he learned of the texts. Strzok was escorted out of FBI headquarters while disciplinary actions against him are weighed. “It was not the discovery of the texts that got him fired,” Republican Representative Trey Gowdy said at the hearing. “It was the bias manifest in those texts.”

President Trump has made Strzok a target of frequent denunciations. Early Wednesday, Trump took time while at the NATO summit in Brussels to tweet: “How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok? Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!”

Responding to Trump’s frequent catch phrase for the Russia investigation, Strzok said, “This investigation is not politically motivated. It is not a witch hunt. It is not a hoax.”

Strzok played leading roles in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2016 probe into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and also in the early stages of the FBI’s Russian election interference probe.

Page Summoned

Page didn’t show up for a closed-door interview with the Judiciary and Oversight panels on Tuesday even though she was subpoenaed to provide a deposition. Republican leaders of the committee wrote Page’s lawyer that she must appear by Friday or “the Judiciary Committee intends to initiate contempt proceedings on Friday, July 13, 2018, at 10:30 a.m.”

An agreement has been reached for her to appear on Friday, according to a congressional official citing Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte of Virginia.

In a letter on Tuesday, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the party’s ranking member on the Oversight panel, wrote that what began as a Republican review of the Clinton investigation “has morphed into a partisan, abusive, and improper inquisition of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of President Trump’s campaign and its connections to Russia.”

Cummings read off a list of those around Trump who have been indicted by Mueller or have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with his probe, as aides help up large photos of the targeted people.

© Copyright 2018 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who exchanged anti-Trump texts with a bureau lawyer, denied he did anything improper, as he faced a hearing called by Republican lawmakers who say he personifies bias that tainted the agency's Russia investigation early on.
strzok, fbi, hearing, putin
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2018-37-12
Thursday, 12 July 2018 11:37 AM
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