FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok offered a forceful defense of the FBI that drew applause at its conclusion from some Democrats during a contentious and testy hearing focused on GOP allegations of anti-Trump bias at the law enforcement bureau.
His remarks won a round of applause from committee Democrats, who accuse Republicans of a political charade designed to discredit the Russia investigation being led by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE .
FBI Agent Peter Strzok applauded by Democratic members of House Oversight Committee after passionate response to Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFBI agent set for public House grilling Dems call for release of Strzok interview transcript Pruitt is gone, but the investigations remain MORE , saying Gowdy’s accusation “deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.” pic.twitter.com/m2Hbc9kPPQ
– ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2018
Strzok, under subpoena, was testifying before two powerful House committees as a result of Republican efforts to grill him on text messages he sent during the 2016 campaign that were critical of then-candidate Trump.
“At no time, in any of these texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok said, adding that “multiple layers” of agents above and below him at the bureau would not have tolerated any “improper behavior.”
“They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me anymore than I would tolerate it in them,” he added. “That is who we are as the FBI, and the suggestion that I in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me.”
“The proposition that that is going on and that might occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive,” Strzok said.
The text messages were revealed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation, and resulted in Strzok being removed from Mueller’s investigation team. But Republicans have seized on the texts as evidence of systemic political bias at the FBI against Trump.
GOP lawmakers have focused on one text exchange between Strzok and Lisa Page, a now-former FBI lawyer, in which Strzok replied, “We’ll stop it,” after he was asked, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
On Thursday, Strzok rejected the suggestion that his sentiment is evidence that he took official action to somehow thwart Trump’s presidential campaign.
“That was written late at night, off the cuff and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero,” Strzok said in response to questioning from House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
“My presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok added. “It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate.”
“I take great offense and I take great disagreement to your assertion of what that was or wasn’t,” Strzok said.