House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy pressed FBI Agent Peter Strzok on special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to remove him from the Russia investigation last August, based on multiple texts the agent wrote displaying animus toward President Donald Trump.
During an exchange with Gowdy before a combined meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform and the House Judiciary committees on Thursday, Strzok denied the allegation that bias was the reason he was removed, but rather that it was Mueller’s concern about the public perception the texts made.
“Do you remember how long it took for you to start talking about impeachment after Bob Mueller was appointed (in May 2017),” Gowdy asked.
Strzok replied that he did not; Gowdy alleged it took only one day (based on the agent’s text) for the impeachment discussions to begin.
“It wasn’t the discovery of your texts, it was the existence of your bias that got your kicked off,” the Republican from South Carolina charged.
“No, Mr. Gowdy it wasn’t,” Strzok replied. “I do not have bias. My personal opinions in no way have ever impacted my…”
Gowdy interjected, “Why were you kicked off?”
Things got heated when Trey Gowdy grilled Peter Strzok on his text message correspondence with Lisa Paige pic.twitter.com/m4jEBvZQzM
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) July 12, 2018
“Mr. Gowdy, my understanding of why I was kicked off was that based on the understanding of those texts, and the perception they might create,” Strzok said.
In other words, the agent appeared to be saying Mueller was more concerned about the public’s perception of Strzok’s bias against Trump than any animus that he might have.
Gowdy jumped on Strzok’s response.
“Hang on a second, Agent Strzok,” Gowdy said. “Perception! You’re saying it’s the perception. There are 13 Democrats on the special counsel probe, including one who went to what he hoped was a victory party. That’s a perception problem, too. They weren’t kicked off, you were!”
“Your testimony is that Bob Mueller did not kick you off because of the content of your texts, he kicked you off because of some appearance that he was worried about?” Gowdy asked.
Strzok affirmed that was the case.
“I’m stating to you it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias. That is was done based on the appearance,” he said. “I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”
I don’t give a d— what you appreciate, Agent Strzok,” Gowdy responded. “I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report released last month concerning the Hillary Clinton email investigation released found Strzok’s anti-Trump texts “deeply” troubling.
“We were deeply troubled by text messages sent by Strzok and (FBI attorney Lisa) Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations,” the report stated.
Should Strzok face criminal charges for abuse of power?
Further, one particular Strzok text promising “we’ll stop” Trump “is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects,” according to the report.
In texts released by the inspector general in December, Strzok described Trump during the campaign as a “loathsome human” and an “idiot,” and found the prospect of him being president “terrifying.”
Page, his mistress at the time, responded with a text that read, “There is no way he gets elected.”
Strzok responded to Page’s text. “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office …that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
“Andy” apparently referred to then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who served under former FBI Director James Comey.
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