Politics

Issa Says Trump’s Skepticism on Russian Probe Is Understandable

Former House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman points to questions about bias of FBI leaders like Peter Strzok

Image Credit: Alex Wong / Getty

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said it’s reasonable for President Donald Trump to doubt the Russian election meddling probe while adding that there remain reasons to worry about what could still happen in 2018.

“We saw the downgrade of Hillary Clinton’s criminal activity,” Issa told reporters on Monday. “So for the president to cast doubt is not unreasonable. At the same time, we have to take the charges seriously, so my personal view is we can’t rule out the validity of a very interesting and odd-timed indictment of people who can never be brought to justice.”

Issa made his comments outside a closed-door hearing for former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who has been the subject of a congressional investigation for the nature of text messages exchanged with FBI agent Peter Strzok.

The messages show a clear disdain for the president while they were investigating him as part of the special counsel probe.

Related: Strzok Refuses to Answer First Question He’s Asked

“I think for the president to cast doubt is appropriate,” Issa said. “Having said that, Putin is a man who has killed many people in his own country. There is no question at all that Russia is still an adverse entity to the United States. So it’s no different than Ronald Reagan. We have to work with them — at the same time we cannot trust Russia fully.”

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The House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hosted the hearing as part of their joint investigation into the Department of Justice and FBI. The investigation is reviewing decisions the agencies made during two major investigations tied to the presidential election of 2016.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been leading the investigation, which is looking at whether Trump or his associates colluded with Russian interests during the campaign. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the investigation last year. The team announced the indictments of a dozen Russian intelligence officers on July 13.

Strzok testified during a closed-door hearing that went late into the night on June 27. He returned to face questions during his first public hearing on July 12. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) threatened him with contempt proceedings for refusing to answer numerous questions. Strzok claimed he was forbidden by the FBI counsel to answer the questions.

Related: Is Lisa Page Spilling the Beans on Former FBI Lover Peter Strzok?

Page appeared for her first day of questioning during a closed-door hearing of her own on July 13. She’d originally failed to comply with a subpoena to show up a few days earlier; her lawyer, Amy Jeffress, had claimed that they needed more time to prepare for it. She also blamed the FBI for not providing all the documents they needed.

Strzok was previously involved in another investigation during the presidential election into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Strzok jumped onto the special counsel investigation but was eventually removed when his text messages came to light internally in August 2017. In May 2018, Page left the bureau.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a review of the email investigation June 14. The report cited the text messages as a sign there was bias against the president, but concluded there was no evidence that bias played a role in the decision-making process.

Connor Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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