By Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian | Washington Post
WASHINGTON – Republicans sparred with FBI agent Peter Strzok from the very first question at a hearing Thursday over politically charged investigations, threatening him with a contempt citation for refusing, at the direction of an FBI lawyer, to answer questions about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Strzok, who was the lead agent on FBI probes into Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign and is now the subject of an internal misconduct probe, was asked by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, how many individuals he interviewed in the first week of the Russia probe in the summer of 2016.
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“I will not, based on direction of the FBI . . . answer that question, because it goes to matters which are related to the ongoing investigations being undertaken by the special counsel’s office,” Strzok replied, at a joint hearing of the Judiciary and Oversight committees.
At that point, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, interjected, threatening Strzok with a contempt citation if he did not answer the question.
“Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question,” Goodlatte said.
Democrats immediately challenged Goodlatte, accusing him of treating Strzok unfairly and seeking unsuccessfully to adjourn the hearing.
In opening the hearing, Goodlatte said Strzok and other senior FBI officials “turned our system of justice on its head, and that’s why we’re here, and why this matters.”
The ranking Democrat on the panel, Jerrold Nadler of New York, urged Republicans not to use the Strzok hearing to attack special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I know that the majority wants a fight with Mr. Strzok today,” Nadler said. “Leave the special counsel alone to do his job.”
Strzok’s appearance at a joint hearing of the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees was highly charged from the very first question, as he faced off against GOP lawmakers who have long denounced his conduct.
Strzok, a deputy assistant director at the FBI who oversaw counterintelligence cases, was removed from the Trump probe by Mueller in July 2017. At that time, investigators for the Justice Department inspector general discovered text messages between him and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page in which they repeatedly disparaged Trump and expressed a strong desire that he not win the election.
Strzok’s work at the FBI became the subject of intense political battles in Congress after The Washington Post reported in December he and Page, who had been involved in a romantic relationship, were under investigation by the inspector general over their texts. Page left the FBI earlier this year; Strzok is the focus of an internal investigation that could lead to his firing, but he is still technically an employee of the bureau.
“I testify today with significant regret, recognizing that my texts have created confusion and caused pain for …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Politics