Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was more credible and forthcoming during a closed-door congressional hearing on Friday than was her one-time paramour, Peter Strzok, the day before.
“I found Lisa Page to be far more credible than Peter Strzok,” Gaetz (pictured above) told reporters outside the hearing. “I didn’t agree with her characterization of every text message and piece of evidence. But we did not see the smart answers from Lisa Page that we saw from Peter Strzok.”
Page and Strzok exchanged an estimated 50,000 text messages during and after the 2016 presidential campaign and often expressed in them extremely critical opinions of President Donald Trump while he was running for the White House — and after his upset victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In one of the messages, Strzok assured Page that “we’ll” make sure Trump was not elected.
Page and Strzok were catapulted to national attention in 2017 when their text messages became public. Both once occupied important positions within the FBI investigations of Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official U.S. diplomatic business and allegations that Trump campaign aides colluded with Russian interests.
“There were questions that Peter Strzok did not answer yesterday that Lisa Page did answer today,” Gaetz said. “Those were the areas, I think, that were the most productive.”
The pair’s relationship ended for reasons known only to them, but her last message to him suggests their affair’s end wasn’t a happy one, as on June 23, 2017, Page said to Strzok: “Please don’t ever text me again.”
Many congressional Republicans believe Page and Strzok were key participants in covert efforts by top officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI to keep Trump from winning the 2016 election and then to somehow force him out of office following his entering the Oval Office.
Gaetz said Page responded to questions that Strzok claimed FBI counsel barred him from answering. Page was also consulting with the bureau and her personal lawyer during the hearing, much as Strzok did during his. There were questions Page declined to answer, Gaetz added.
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The closed hearing was convened jointly by the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Strzok previously testified for 11 hours behind closed doors to the two panels, then spent most of Thursday in a public hearing that was often contentious. The former FBI counterintelligence agent stridently claimed his messages with Page were not evidence of extreme bias against Trump and often derided House Republicans for investigating him.
The two committees launched a joint investigation last year into decisions by the DOJ and FBI in 2016.
The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena earlier this year that Page defied by not showing up Wednesday. Amy Jeffress, her lawyer, said that she needed more time to prepare. Strzok showed up the next day for his first public hearing, after already testifying during two hearings that were closed to the public on June 27.
Strzok refused to answer numerous questions throughout his public hearing by citing FBI counsel advice that he not talk about ongoing investigations. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) even threatened Strzok with contempt proceedings if he continued to refuse to cooperate.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has been leading the investigation into whether Trump or his associates colluded with Russian interests during the campaign. Strzok was removed from the probe in August 2017 after his texts were revealed internally. Page left the bureau that May.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a review of the email investigation on June 7. The report cited the text messages as showing deep-seated bias against the president but concluded there was no evidence that bias played a role in decision-making.