Former FBI agent Peter Strzok forcefully defended himself in a Thursday congressional hearing which resembled a shouting match filled with finger-pointing and veiled references to personal transgressions.
This was Strzok’s first public appearance since he was fired from special counsel’s Russia investigation after it was discovered he had exchanged anti-Trump text messages with his lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The former agent insisted that his work was never affected by his personal opinions and had never even considered leaking damaging information he knew about the Trump campaign.
“At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok said during the 10-hour chaotic hearing.
His text messages have largely sparked allegations of political bias at the Justice Department. Republicans on the House committees argued that the texts had influenced two FBI probes he had helped steer – investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email use and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Agent Strzok had Hillary Clinton winning the White House before he finished investigating her,” said Republican Trey Gowdy, Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte gave further impetus to allegations of bias by asking his colleagues on the committee to imagine being investigated by someone who “hated you” and “disparaged you in all manner of ways.”
“Would anyone sitting here today believe that this was an acceptable state of affairs, particularly at an agency whose motto is ‘Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity’? I think not,” he said.
However, Strzok insisted the Russia investigation was not inspired by personal dislike but rather by genuine and valid concerns that Moscow was meddling in the election. He also stressed that the hearing was only proof that Russia has achieved its goal of sowing discord in the U.S. “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.
He also rejected claims by Gowdy that he had made attempts to stop Trump from becoming president, evident in one of the texts he had sent. Strzok angrily responded, saying the “we’ll stop it” text came in response to campaign occurrences such as Trump insulting the immigrant father of a fallen U.S. soldier.
Strzok said such behavior was “horrible and disgusting” and added he was stating his opinion the electorate would “stop” a candidate like that. He asserted it was not a declaration that he or the FBI would improperly interfere with the electoral process.
“The suggestion that I and some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this, is astounding to me. It simply couldn’t happen,” he stated.