Str­zok in­sists work had no Trump bias

Tells con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors FBI ac­cepted doc­u­ments linked to dossier

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEFF MORDOCK

FBI agent Peter Str­zok ad­mit­ted Thurs­day that he doesn’t like Pres­i­dent Trump but in­sisted his per­sonal po­lit­i­cal views, in­clud­ing text mes­sages promis­ing to “stop” Mr. Trump or fa­cil­i­tate his im­peach­ment, did not in­flu­ence two of the coun­try’s most im­por­tant in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

In 10 hours of tes­ti­mony to Congress, Mr. Str­zok also con­firmed for the first time that the FBI did ac­cept doc­u­ments from Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial Bruce Ohr dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign. Mr. Ohr’s wife worked at Fu­sion GPS, the firm that paid to com­pile the sala­cious and un­ver­i­fied anti-Trump dossier.

Mr. Str­zok also con­firmed to Congress that his com­puter was used to change the lan­guage in the memo the FBI used to ex­on­er­ate Hil­lary Clin­ton of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing in her emails — though he said that de­ci­sion was made by lawyers.

But there were few other ma­jor rev­e­la­tions in hours of tes­ti­mony most no­tably char­ac­ter­ized by Repub­li­can at­tacks on Mr. Str­zok’s in­tegrity and Democrats’ leap­ing to de­fend him and the FBI.

Mr. Str­zok smirked through much of the pro­ceed­ings, telling law­mak­ers that the rau­cous hear­ing was “an­other vic­tory notch” for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

He did say he now re­grets hav­ing sent tens of thou­sands of text mes­sages, in­clud­ing su­per­charged anti-Trump screeds, from his govern­ment-is­sued

phone to his paramour, Lisa Page, at the time an FBI lawyer.

But he char­ac­ter­ized the mes­sages as stan­dard po­lit­i­cal opin­ions he was en­ti­tled to hold un­der the First Amend­ment and in­sisted his prom­ise to Ms. Page that they would find a way to “stop” Mr. Trump didn’t mean he was bi­ased in his ap­proach to his job.

“At no time in any of these texts did those per­sonal be­liefs ever en­ter into the realm of any ac­tion I took,” Mr. Str­zok told law­mak­ers, say­ing the bureau didn’t bun­gle the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails nor the probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Mr. Str­zok said in one key mes­sage where he said, “we’ll stop” Mr. Trump from be­com­ing pres­i­dent, he was re­fer­ring to Amer­i­can vot­ers.

Ms. Page, who re­signed from the FBI this spring, is slated to tes­tify to Congress be­hind closed doors Fri­day and Mon­day, af­ter de­fy­ing a sub­poena to ap­pear ear­lier this week.

Their af­fair is now at the cen­ter of ques­tions about the fair­ness of the FBI’s ac­tions dur­ing and af­ter the 2016 elec­tion.

The two ex­changed text mes­sages call­ing for Mr. Trump’s im­peach­ment and call­ing him names while mem­bers of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian col­lu­sion. Dis­cov­ery of the texts later led to Mr. Str­zok’s re­moval from the spe­cial coun­sel team.

Mr. Str­zok told law­mak­ers that he never felt it was nec­es­sary to re­cuse him­self from the Rus­sia probe.

“I did not think that bias was ex­pressed in those text mes­sages,” he said.

Repub­li­cans were dumb­struck, and read out por­tions of the FBI’s rules pro­hibit­ing mis­con­duct, say­ing Mr. Str­zok’s be­hav­ior brought dis­re­pute on the bureau.

“You’ve em­bar­rassed them,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Repub­li­can. “You’ve em­bar­rassed your­self.

He then broached the sub­ject of Mr. Str­zok’s in­fi­delity: “I can’t help won­der when I see you look­ing there with a lit­tle smirk, how many times did you look so in­no­cent into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about —”

Mr. Str­zok in­ter­rupted: “Your de­ci­sion to bring up my wife, a per­son I have ac­knowl­edged I have hurt, says more about your char­ac­ter than mine, sir.”

Rep. David Ci­ci­line, Rhode Is­land, ac­cused Mr. Gohmert of “in­tol­er­a­ble ha­rass­ment” and Rep. Bon­nie Wat­son Cole­man, New Jer­sey, yelled “You need your med­i­ca­tion” at the Texas Repub­li­can.

Rep. Steve Co­hen, Ten­nessee Demo­crat, sug­gested Mr. Str­zok, who served in the Army, de­served a Pur­ple Heart for his ser­vice to the coun­try.

Repub­li­cans, mean­while, threat­ened to hold Mr. Str­zok in con­tempt of Congress for re­fus­ing to di­vulge more de­tails about how the Rus­sia probe was con­ducted.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Repub­li­can, de­manded to know how many wit­nesses Mr. Str­zok had in­ter­viewed af­ter join­ing Mr. Mueller’s team. Mr. Str­zok said the FBI told him he wasn’t al­lowed to say.

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, told Mr. Str­zok he was un­der sub­poena and was re­quired to an­swer the ques­tion.

Mr. Str­zok re­sponded that he was tes­ti­fy­ing vol­un­tar­ily and not un­der sub­poena, set­ting off an­other con­tentious ex­change be­tween law­mak­ers. Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, New York Demo­crat, ac­cused Mr. Good­latte of putting Mr. Str­zok in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion.

What fol­lowed was a nasty back-and­forth with Mr. Str­zok say­ing law­mak­ers were mis­char­ac­ter­iz­ing the rea­son Mr. Mueller ousted the FBI agent from the Rus­sia probe team.

“It is not my un­der­stand­ing that [Mueller] kicked me off be­cause of any bias, that it was done on the ap­pear­ance,” Mr. Str­zok said. “If you want to rep­re­sent what you said ac­cu­rately, I am happy to an­swer that ques­tion, but I don’t ap­pre­ci­ate what was orig­i­nally said be­ing changed.”

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

Repub­li­cans said they not only want an­swers about the Rus­sia probe, but they also want to see more of Mr. Str­zok’s 50,000 text mes­sages to Ms. Page.

Mr. Str­zok said he would make only his work-re­lated text mes­sages available for pub­lic scru­tiny. Mr. Good­latte said it could be dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine which mes­sages were per­sonal and which were pub­lic.

Mr. Str­zok said the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral was able to make that de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Rep. John Rat­cliffe ac­cused Mr. Str­zok of ly­ing about his claims that bias did not seep into his po­lit­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“When you said you never crossed that bright, in­vi­o­lable line, what you meant to say was ex­cept for 50,000 times, ex­cept for hun­dreds of times a day where I went back and forth, ex­press­ing my per­sonal opin­ions about ‘f---ng Trump and stop­ping Trump and im­peach­ing Trump on of­fi­cial FBI phones, on of­fi­cial FBI time,” he said.

“Agent Str­zok are you start­ing to un­der­stand why some folks out there don’t be­lieve a word you say.” Mr. Rat­cliffe con­tin­ued.

Democrats said the hear­ing was a GOP at­tempt to un­der­mine the Mueller probe.

Dur­ing one part of the hear­ing, a group of staffers held up large pho­tos of the five in­di­vid­u­als who have pleaded guilty in Mr. Mueller’s Rus­sia col­lu­sion probe so far.

Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said law­mak­ers should fo­cus on Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence rather than grilling Mr. Str­zok.

“This coun­try has a num­ber of emer­gen­cies that we are not spend­ing any time on,” he said.

One of the hear­ing’s most strik­ing mo­ments came when Rep. Jim Jor­dan, Ohio Repub­li­can, pressed Mr. Str­zok on the anti-Trump dossier com­plied by for­mer Bri­tish spy Christo­pher Steele. Mr. Jor­dan re­peat­edly de­manded Mr. Str­zok re­veal the iden­ti­fies of “Corn and Simp­son,” two names men­tioned in an email the agent sent ref­er­enc­ing the FBI’s re­ceipt of the dossier.

Simp­son is pos­si­bly a ref­er­ence to Glenn Simp­son, founder of Fu­sion GPS, which hired Steele to com­plete he dossier, while David Corn is likely the Wash­ing­ton Bureau Chief for Mother Jones mag­a­zine, which re­ported on it.

Mr. Str­zok said he would “love” to an­swer the ques­tion, but an FBI at­tor­ney had barred him from do­ing so.

“This is un­be­liev­able, but that is where this has got­ten and it is as frus­trat­ing as it can get,” Mr. Jor­dan said.

At the hear­ing’s con­clu­sion, Mr. Good­latte took aim at the Jus­tice Depart­ment for muz­zling Mr. Str­zok, call­ing it “un­ac­cept­able.”

“Congress has been blocked from its con­sti­tu­tional over­sight du­ties,” he said, later adding, “and the Amer­i­can peo­ple did not get an­swers.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

TALK­ING: FBI agent Peter Str­zok says he re­grets send­ing text mes­sages, in­clud­ing anti-Trump screeds, from his govern­ment-is­sued phone to Lisa Page.

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