Strzok Refuses to Answer First Question He's Asked

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Strzok Refuses to Answer the First Question He’s Asked

Rep. Trey Growdy simply queried how many people the FBI agent interviewed before saying President Donald Trump shouldn't be elected

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) challenged FBI agent Peter Strzok, Thursday during a congressional hearing, on his claims that bias didn’t get him kicked off the special counsel investigation.

“My testimony, what you asked and I responded to, was he kicked me off because of my bias,” Strzok said. “I am stating to you that it’s not my understanding that he kicked me off for any bias. It was done based on appearance. If you want to represent what he said accurately, I am happy to answer that question, but I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”

Gowdy (pictured center above, holding notebook) grilled him on biased text messages he sent out during two politically charged investigations. He predicted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would win while investigating her private email server. He also mentioned the possibility of President Donald Trump’s being impeached right when he joined an investigation targeting him.

“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, agent Strzok,” Gowdy replied. “I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations in 2016.”

Gowdy was particularly interested in determining how many people Strzok interviewed before texting out conclusions on the people he was investigating. Strzok refused to answer citing counsel from the FBI.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) warned him to cite a legal reason that he can’t answer while Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the panel’s ranking member, and others defended him for not answering.

Strzok was called in to testify as part of a congressional investigation into decisions  the Department of Justice and FBI made in 2016. The House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched the joint investigation last year.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been leading the investigation, which is looking into whether the president or his associates colluded with Russian interests during the campaign. Strzok was removed from the investigation when text messages he exchanged opposing the president were revealed internally.

Strzok once texted, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” when asked by former FBI lawyer Lisa Page whether Trump could become president. The two of them have also mentioned an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump did win, and also a “secret society,” phrases that have drawn concern from Republicans.

Strzok jumped onto the special counsel probe from an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business while she was serving as secretary of state. Congressional Republicans have scrutinized how the bureau handled the investigation as part of their review.

Strzok already testified during two closed-door hearings, one of which continued late into the night June 27. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and other Republicans said their concerns of bias weren’t satisfied, while Democrats dismissed the hearing as yet another example of House Republicans’ trying to undermine the special counsel investigation.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a review of the email investigation June 7. The report cited the text messages as a sign there was bias against the president but concluded there was no evidence that the bias played a role in the decision-making process.

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