(WASHINGTON) — An embattled FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages exposed the Justice Department to claims of institutional bias launched a vigorous defense Thursday at an extraordinary congressional hearing that devolved into shouting matches, finger pointing and veiled references to personal transgressions.
Peter Strzok testified publicly for the first time since being removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team after the discovery of derogatory text messages he traded with an FBI lawyer. He told lawmakers the texts in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election reflected personal views that he had never acted on, angrily rejecting Republican allegations that he had set out to stop Donald Trump from becoming president.
“At no time, in any of those texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok said.
The hearing brought a defiant Strzok face-to-face with Republican lawmakers who for months have held up his texts as the embodiment of anti-Trump bias within the FBI. In breaking his months-long silence, Strzok vigorously defended his handling of two hugely sensitive investigations in which he played a leading role: inquiries into Hillary Clinton’s email use and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
He insisted the FBI had good cause two years ago to start investigating whether the Trump campaign was working with the Kremlin amid allegations of what he described as a Russian offer of assistance to a Trump campaign associate. He characterized the anti-Trump text messages as personal communications that he never envisioned becoming public and denied that they had swayed his actions.
Strzok insisted under aggressive questioning that a much-discussed 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 the text, written late at night and off-the-cuff, reflected his belief that the American public would not stomach such “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. So, I take great offense, and I take great disagreement to your assertion of what that was or wasn’t.”
Plus, he said, both investigations were handled by large teams.
“They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me anymore than I would tolerate it in them,” Strzok said. “That …read more
Source:: Time – Politics