Former FBI agent Peter Strzok said Thursday that his text messages with another FBI official with whom he was having an affair did not factor into his work on the bureau’s investigations into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia or into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information.
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Speaking to lawmakers in a public hearing on Thursday, the intelligence agent said his anti-Trump texts with Lisa Page — a former FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair — were “blunt,” but that “not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.”
“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 in his opening remarks. “As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it is profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in.”
The controversial texts first came to light in December, when it was revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller dismissed Strzok from his team the previous summer upon learning of the messages.
The two agents disparaged Trump throughout 2016, describing him as an “idiot” and a “menace.”
Trump and his allies have suggested the texts are proof of a so-called deep state conspiracy against him, and that the Mueller probe is a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
But in his opening remarks on Thursday to members of the House judiciary and oversight committees, Strzok said there was “no evidence of bias in my professional actions” and defended Mueller’s probe.
“This investigation is not politically motivated,” Strzok said. “It is not a witch hunt. It is not a hoax.”
Strzok testified before the House in a closed-door hearing in June, where Republicans railed against his credibility in claiming that his texts with Page were not evidence that he intended to block Trump from the presidency, as his critics have said an August 2016 message suggests.
“We’ll stop it,” Strzok texted Page in August 2016 — apparently referring to the prospect of Trump being elected president, according to a June report by the inspector general.
Page had been subpoenaed to appear on Capitol Hill on Thursday, but did not comply with the order because Congress hadn’t given her “sufficient time to prepare.” She will instead appear in a closed-door hearing on Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte told Fox Business Network.
Trump — who mocks Page and Strzok as the “FBI lovers” — blasted Page’s decision not to appear Thursday in a tweet, lamenting the “corruption on the other side” and again calling out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do something about it.
While Republicans slammed Strzok Thursday, Democrats warned their colleagues not to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.
“I urge our chairmen to change course and to keep their promises to protect the integrity of the special counsel’s investigation,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in his opening statement Thursday.
But Republicans lambasted the embattled FBI agent, accusing him of “textbook bias” in his handling of the Clinton and Trump investigations.
“That is bias,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a fiery opening statement. “Agent Strzok may not see it, but the rest of the country does.”