Former FBI agent Peter Strzok testified Thursday before a joint session of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees. More than 70 members of Congress were present. While the list below is not exhaustive, here are some of the highlights.
Remind me again — who is Peter Strzok?
Strzok is an FBI agent who worked on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and later worked on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller fired Strzok after it came to light that Strzok had been sending text messages critical of President Donald Trump while he was working on the Russia investigation. Those messages to a fellow FBI agent, included a promise that Trump would never become president because “we’ll stop it.”
What did Strzok say?
Repeating what he had said in the past, Strzok insisted that all his official actions while at the FBI were completely free from bias. Strzok insisted that he did not remember sending those texts, but that he had “significant regret” about them. In his opening statement Strzok said:
[L]et me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.
Strzok insisted that he was removed from the Russia investigation because keeping him there was bad for PR, not because Mueller suspected him of bias. Asked by Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) if he ever considered recusing himself because of his “disdain” for President Donald Trump, Strzok replied simply that he never had.
Democrat says that Strzok deserves a ‘Purple Heart’
If one thing defined this hearing, it was Republicans announcing their dislike of Strzok and Democrats expressing their support for him. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) even told Strzok “If I could give you a Purple Heart, I would. You deserve one.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert brings up Strzok’s past infidelity
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) said:
I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country. You’ve embarrassed them; you’ve embarrassed yourself. And I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?
General outcry followed from the room. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) accused Gohmert of harassing the witness. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) called out to Gohmert that he needed his medication.
Louie Gohmert to Strzok: “You’ve embarrassed yourself and I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lied to her about Lisa Page.”
Someone off-camera: “Do you need your medication?” pic.twitter.com/TuEtmbNwd5
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) July 12, 2018
What did other members of Congress say?
Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) began her time by telling Strzok that she thought he as a reliable witness and that she knew he loved his country.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) quipped that while Strzok might not see the bias in his actions “the rest of the country does. And it’s not what we want, expect, or deserve from any law enforcement officer, much less the FBI.”
One continual point of contention was what Strzok was permitted to discuss during the hearing. On the advice of his lawyer and one from the FBI, Strzok repeatedly said that he could not answer questions due to their relationship to an ongoing investigation, much to the frustration of Republican members.
Democrats, meanwhile, demanded the release of Strzok’s earlier closed-door testimony. While Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he would also like to see the release of this transcript, Goodlatte pointed out that it went against protocol to release this while there was still an ongoing investigation.