In what could best be described as explosive, the first 90 minutes of today’s hearing were made up of the Democrats interrupting, arguing points of order, calling points of order, shutting down oversight, demanding recorded votes, and eating up time on the clock.
Democrats erupted in objection of Goodlatte’s attempt to have Strzok answer the very first question that was asked at the hearing by House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy. The first question Gowdy asked Strzok concerned how many witnesses were interviewed by Strzok at the time he sent the scandalous text messages to Lisa Page.
Gowdy asked Strzok, “Between July 31st and August 8th, how many interviews did you conduct related to the alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign?”
Strzok, after turning and speaking with his lawyer answered, “Congressman, as you know, council for the FBI, based on the Special Council’s equities, has instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigations…((Gowdy interrupts to repeat the question))…Congressman, I understand your question, I appreciate it, and I would very much like to answer, but as I’ve stated, as you know the council of the FBI, based on the Special Council’s equities, have instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigations into Russian attempts to interfere with the election.”
Chairman Goodlatte then suspended the clock and pressed Strzok to answer, “You are under subpoena and are required to answer the question,” Goodlatte said. “Are you objecting to the question? If so, please state your objection.”
From the beginning of the hearing, Strzok, who was subpoenaed last week, defended himself and his actions:
“In the summer of 2016, I 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,” Strzok said in his opening remarks. “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.”
After Chairman Gowdy drew attention to specific remarks Strzok had made, including ones in which he texted his lover Lisa Page, “we’ll stop” Trump from getting elected, which clearly showed Strzok’s political bias, Strzok responded by emphasizing his personal opinions would never impact any of his professional actions.
“This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference, and for every other investigation I’ve worked on,” he told the panel. “It is not who I am, and it is not something I would ever do. Period.”
Chairman Gowdy continued his line of questioning, asking Stzrok about Mueller letting him go, “If you were kicked off when he read the text, shouldn’t you have been kicked off when you wrote them?”
Strzok replied: “Not at all.”
Gowdy: “Well, it wasn’t the discovery of your text Mr. Strzok, it was the existence of your bias that got you kicked off.
Strzok: “No, Mr. Gowdy, it wasn’t. I do not have bias. My personal opinions in no havway ever impact..”
Gowdy: “Why did you get kicked off?”
Strzok: “Mr. Gowdy, my understanding of why I was kicked off was based on understanding of those text and the perception that they might create..”
Gowdy: “Hang on a second, Agent Strzok, hang on a second–perception? You’re saying it was the perception of thirteen Democrats on the Special Council Probe, including one who went to what he hoped was a victory party. That’s a perception problem too. They weren’t kicked off, you were. Why were you kicked off?…How long did you talk to him [Mueller] when he let you go?
Strzok: “My recollection is it was a short meeting somewhere between fifteen to thirty minutes, probably around fifteen minutes.”
Gowdy: “And it’s your testimony is Bob Mueller did not kick you off because of the content of your text, he kicked you off because some appearance that he was worried about?”
Strzok: “My testimony, what you asked, and what I responded to was that he kicked me off because of my bias. I am stating to you, it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias, that it was done based on the appearance. If you want to represent what you said accurately, I’m happy to answer that question, but I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”
Gowdy: “I don’t give a damn what you appreciate Agent Strzok. I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”
Strozk gets worked up with a lengthy answer, one that ended in the Dems applauding!!
“In terms of the text that ‘We will stop it’, you need to understand that was written late at night, off the cuff, and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero. And my presumption based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be President of the United States. It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process-for any candidate. So, I take great offense and I take great disagreement to your assertion of what that was or wasn’t. As to the 100 million to 1 that was used clearly a statement made in jest, and using hyperbole, I of course recognize that millions of Americans were likely to vote for candidate Trump. I acknowledge that it is absolutely their right, that is what makes our democracy such a vibrant process that it is. But to suggest somehow that we can parse down the words of shorthand textual conversations like they’re some kind of a contract for a car, is simply not consistent with my or most people’s use of text messaging. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time, in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn’t just me sitting here telling you-you don’t have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there were multiple layers of people above me. The assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director and director of the FBI and multiple layers of people below me, section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents 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 have tolerated in them. That is who we are as the FBI and the suggestion that I, in 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 and the proposition that that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission and it is deeply destructive.
To this, the democrats applauded and then a motion was made to subpoena Steve Bannon for refusing to answer some of Gowdy’s questions while under subpoena-to which the motion was denied.
Goodlatte called for an audible vote to be cast, but of course, that wasn’t good enough either so a recorded vote began. The clerk called the roll and the vote was recorded for the motion to table the ruling table of the chair.
Goodlatte challenged Democrats to put themselves in Trump’s place by replacing his name with their own.
“To my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, please replace President Trump’s name with your own name in a small sample of things Mr. Strzok has said,” Goodlatte said. “Envision how you would feel if you found out that the chief agent investigating you as a Member of Congress was making these comments: ‘F Trump,’ ‘Trump is a disaster,’ ‘Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support’ – or, perhaps the most alarming, “We’ll stop it.”
Rep. John Ratcliffe ( R- Texas) pressed Strzok about the 50,000 text messages on official FBI devices, where his bias seemed very clear, to the tune of hundreds of text messages a day:
“…F ‘ing Trump, stopping Trump and impeaching Trump-on official FBI phones, on official FBI time. Other than that, you never crossed that line. I’m sure there are 13,000 FBI agents out there that are beaming with pride at how clearly you’ve drawn that line. Agent Strzok are you starting to understand why some folks out there don’t believe a word you say, and why it is especially troubling that you, of all people are at the center of the three highest profile investigations in recent time that involve President Trump and that you were in charge of an investigation investigating, gathering evidence against Donald Trump-a subject that you hated, that you wanted to F-him, to Stop him, to impeach him. Do you see why that might call into question everything that you touched on all of those investigations? Chairman, I’m done with this witness.” Rep. Ratcliffe then walked out of the hearing, without waiting to hear Strzok’s response.
Chairman Goodlatte called for a recess until 2 p.m.
On Thursday morning, Goodlatte said Lisa Page, through her attorney has now agreed to appear for a private interview, voluntarily on Friday.
Lisa Page, colleague and lover of Strzok, refused to appear for an interview with congressional investigators Wednesday morning despite a subpoena, and House Republicans are also considering a vote to hold Page in contempt.
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