FBI’s Peter Strzok takes on Congress in contentious hearing

On Thursday, a congressional hearing on the Russia probe rose to theatrical heights as FBI agent Peter Strzok took the stand. From the outset, Republican members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees attacked the 26-year law enforcement and counter-intelligence veteran, threatening to hold him in contempt for his refusal to answer the very first question of the day.

Basing their line of questioning, in part, on personal mails and text messages retrieved during an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General which concluded bias on Strzok’s part could not be ruled out, GOP lawmakers were unyielding in their insistence they proved bias and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI.

“The moment special counsel Bob Mueller found out about Peter Strzok’s text and emails he kicked him off of the investigation,” said Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy. “But that was a year and a half too late. The text and emails may have been discovered in May of 2017, but the bias existed and was manifest a year and a half before that. All the way back to late 2015 and early 2016. So it wasn’t the discovery of texts that got him fired, it was the bias manifest in those texts that made him unfit to objectively and dispassionately investigate.”

During the nearly 10-hour hearing, shouting matches broke out between Republican and Democratic congresssmen, attacks became personal and impassioned statements by seemingly incensed representatives sought to impugn Strzok’s integrity and that of the agency her serves.

In response to one such vociferous attack by Chairman Gowdy (R-S.C.), Mr. Strzok responded indignantly:

“At every step, at every investigative decision, there were multiple layers of people above me, assistant director, deputy director, director of the FBI, and multiple layers of people below me, section chiefs, unit chiefs and analysts, all of whom were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate it in them.”

“The suggestion that I, in some dark chamber in the FBI, would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and do this is astounding to me,” he said. “It couldn’t happen.”

At times, it seemed Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) had lost all control of the proceedings as he shot down objection after objection from Democrats.  At one point, he even refused to allow Agent Strzok to consult with counsel before answering a question, which drew a swift rebuke from the assembly.

During his allotted time, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) characterized the Republican attack by saying:

“There is a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign and possible crimes related to the 2016 presidential election involving collusion with Russian spies to sell out our democracy and hijack the presidency. My colleagues in the cover-up caucus don’t like that criminal investigation, and therefore, they need to identify a villain. Mr. Strzok, tag, you’re it.”

With wall-to-wall coverage on all of the major news outlets, there was no shortage of opinions on either side of the aisle.

Following Thursday’s hearing, President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, also took to Twitter with a different take:

Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Friday 12 indictments of Russian GRU agents in the special counsel’s probe of election interference in 2016.  All 12 are charged with a sustained email hacking campaign against then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The indictment just days before President Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Lawmakers from both parties have called for Trump to cancel the meeting.

 

[CNN] [New York Times] [Washington Post] [AP] [Photo courtesy CSPAN via Mother Jones]

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