clear
Friday November 16th, 2018 11:21AM

FBI agent angrily rejects charges of bias at chaotic hearing

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — An FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias said at a bitterly contentious and occasionally chaotic hearing in Congress on Thursday that his work has never been tainted by politics, angrily rejecting Republican allegations that he set out to stop Donald Trump from becoming president.

Peter Strzok testified publicly for the first time since being removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team, telling lawmakers that texts he traded with an FBI lawyer in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election reflected personal views that he never once acted on.

"At no time, in any of those texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took," Strzok said.

He insisted under aggressive questioning that an August 2016 text in which he said "We'll stop" a Trump presidency followed Trump's denigration of the family of a dead U.S. service member. He said it was his personal view, written late at night and off-the-cuff, of "horrible, disgusting behavior" by the Republican presidential candidate.

But, he added in a raised voice and emphatic tone, "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." Some Democrats applauded after he finished speaking.

Republican members of the House judiciary and oversight committees grilled Strzok as they argued that the text messages exchanged with FBI lawyer Lisa Page color the outcome of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and undercut the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. Strzok, a seasoned counterintelligence agent, helped lead both investigations but has since been reassigned to human resources.

"Agent Strzok had Hillary Clinton winning the White House before he finished investigating her," said Rep. Trey Gowdy, Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "Agent Strzok had Donald Trump impeached before he even started investigating him. That is bias. Agent Strzok may not see it but the rest of the country does, and it is not what we want, expect or deserve from any law enforcement officer much less the FBI."

The hearing briefly devolved into chaos and open yelling as Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte said Strzok needed to answer Republicans' questions and suggested they might recess the hearing and hold him in contempt. Democrats objected to Goodlatte's repeated attempts to get Strzok to answer. Goodlatte eventually let the hearing proceed without calling the panel into recess.

In his opening statement, Strzok said he has never allowed personal opinions to infect his work, that he knew information during the campaign that had the potential to damage Trump but never contemplated leaking it and that the focus on him by Congress is misguided and plays into "our enemies' campaign to tear America apart."

Strzok acknowledged that while his text message criticism was "blunt," it was not directed at one person or political party and included jabs not only at Trump but also at Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: Not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took," he said.

He said he was one of the few people during the 2016 election who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with people in the Trump orbit, and that that information could have derailed Trump's election chances. "But," he said, "the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind."

Although Strzok has said through his lawyer that he was eager to tell his side of the story, he made clear his exasperation at being the focal point of a congressional hearing at a time when Russian election interference has been successfully "sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions."

"I have the utmost respect for Congress's oversight role, but I truly believe that today's hearing is just another victory notch in Putin's belt and another milestone in our enemies' campaign to tear America apart," Strzok said. "As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it is profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in."

He also flatly rejected the president's characterizations of Mueller's work and the threat of Russian election interference, saying, "This investigation is not politically motivated, it is not a witch hunt, it is not a hoax."

The contentious hearing followed hours of closed-door questioning last week. It also reflects an effort to shift attention away from the content of Strzok's texts and onto what he says is the more pressing issue: the Russians' "grave attack" on American democracy and continuing efforts to divide the country.

But Republicans eager for ways to discredit Mueller's investigation have for months held up the texts from Strzok and Page to support allegations of anti-Trump bias within federal law enforcement.

The Justice Department's inspector general has criticized Strzok and Page for creating the appearance of impropriety through the texts. But the report said it found no evidence of political bias in the FBI's decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton. And many Democrats say actions taken by law enforcement during the campaign season — including announcing a reopening of the investigation into Clinton just days before the election — actually wound up harming the Democratic candidate and aiding the Republican candidate, Trump.

FBI Director Chris Wray says employees who were singled out for criticism in the inspector general's report have been referred to internal disciplinary officials. Strzok's lawyer has said he was escorted from the FBI building last month as the disciplinary process winds its way through the system.

Page, who has also been subpoenaed, is expected to speak to lawmakers at a private meeting on Friday.

___

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

  • Associated Categories: Local/State News, Politics, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: NATO chief: Trump approach 'having an impact'
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says that despite President Donald Trump's fire-and-brimstone approach to this week's summit, the U.S. president has had an impact on the commitment by alliance members to boost their individual military spending
12:26PM ( 9 minutes ago )
FBI agent angrily rejects charges of bias at chaotic hearing
An FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias said at a bitterly contentious and occasionally chaotic hearing in Congress that his work has never been tainted by politics
12:24PM ( 12 minutes ago )
'Game of Thrones' earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations
"Game of Thrones" earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations, including for best drama series.
12:22PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Yelling, chaos over FBI agent's anti-Trump texts
Yelling and chaos erupted at a congressional hearing Thursday as Republican lawmakers challenged FBI agent Peter Strzok over his derogatory text message saying "we'll stop" the election of Donald Trump
12:05PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Lawyer: Stormy Daniels' arrest was part of sting operation
Porn actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer says her arrest at an Ohio strip club was part of a "sting operation."
12:03PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Government probing 'new information' in Emmett Till slaying
The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Emmett Till, a black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi shocked the world more than 60 years ago
11:59AM ( 37 minutes ago )
AP National News
Millions from anonymous donors to influence Kavanaugh fight
Millions of dollars from anonymous donors are helping shape the fight over President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee as Republicans and Democrats prepare for a bruising battle for ideological control of the nation's highest court.
11:14AM ( 1 hour ago )
Royal etiquette for the Trumps' visit: Don't kiss the queen
President Donald Trump is coming to Britain fresh from a confrontational NATO summit that featured stinging criticism of America's closest allies, but he's likely to tone down that stance when he takes tea Friday with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
11:12AM ( 1 hour ago )
FBI agent: My work has never been tainted by political bias
An FBI agent removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team because of derogatory text messages about President Donald Trump is testifying publicly for the first time
11:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: FBI agent explains 'we'll stop' Trump text
FBI special agent Peter Strzok says a text message saying "we'll stop" the election of Donald Trump was written in response to a series of events including Trump's "disgusting" insult of the family of a fallen American soldier
11:50AM ( 46 minutes ago )
The Latest: Questioning of FBI agent devolves into chaos
A joint House hearing to question FBI agent Peter Stzrok quickly devolved into chaos as Republicans demanded he answer questions about the Russia investigation
11:42AM ( 54 minutes ago )
The Latest: Gowdy says FBI agent displayed 'textbook bias'
The Republican chairman of a House panel says FBI agent Peter Strzok exhibited "textbook bias" as he investigated both Democrat Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump's campaign
11:06AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Battle over family separations flares anew in Congress
Congress' fight over President Donald Trump's now abandoned policy of separating migrant families is stirring anew
10:07PM ( 14 hours ago )
Battle over family separations flairs anew in Congress
Congress' fight over President Donald Trump's now abandoned policy of separating migrant families is stirring anew
9:02PM ( 15 hours ago )
Republicans demand interview with ex-FBI lawyer this week
House Republicans have told former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that she must answer questions before two House committees investigating the Justice Department this week
7:18PM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Trump rattles NATO, knocking its value, assailing Germany
Under fire for his warm embrace of Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump jolted a NATO summit by turning a harsh spotlight on Germany's ties to Russia while questioning the value of a military alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy.
11:09PM ( 13 hours ago )
Facebook faces UK fine over its data privacy scandal
Facebook faces U.K. fine over its privacy scandal
8:38AM ( 1 day ago )
Emotions high as Kavanaugh begins fight for confirmation
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh plunges into his confirmation battle on Capitol Hill
7:53PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Democrat faults conservative role in nomination
President Donald Trump has yet to announce his pick for the Supreme Court, but Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania _ up for re-election this year _ says he'll be opposed
1:27PM ( 2 days ago )
In Tennessee, Trump's tariffs become a political issue
Trump's tariffs roil Senate contests in Tennessee and other states with a heavy stake on exports
12:01AM ( 3 days ago )
How the trade war is changing minds in a Senate battleground
President Donald Trump's trade policies are threatening the Tennessee economy and roiling some pivotal Senate races in GOP-leaning states where candidates have backed him on almost every other major issue
11:04AM ( 5 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
The Latest: NATO chief: Trump approach 'having an impact'
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says that despite President Donald Trump's fire-and-brimstone approach to this week's summit, the U.S. president has had an impact on the commitment by alliance members to boost their individual military spending
12:26PM ( 10 minutes ago )
'Game of Thrones' earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations
"Game of Thrones" earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations, including for best drama series.
12:22PM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: Emmy noms for reality competition show announced
The Latest: Emmy nominations for outstanding reality competition show include familiar shows, 'The Voice' 'The Amazing Race' and 'Project Runway'
12:18PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt
Syrian activists say rebels have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad with Arab Spring-inspired protests seven years ago, to government forces
12:17PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Pelosi says Jordan should have known about wrestlers' abuse
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says a Republican congressman from Ohio should have known about allegations that college wrestlers he coached were abused by their team doctor two decades ago
12:15PM ( 21 minutes ago )