One of the recent hobgoblins of the right is that the FBI had (has?) an explicit anti-Trump bias, and that this has corrupted them ideologically and led to partisan efforts to undermine the president. As in: Trump didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just one giant witch hunt! That led to today’s hearing, called by the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee, in which several FBI agents were questioned regarding their conduct.
One of those agents was Peter Strzok, the man who “oversaw the opening of the Russia investigation.” Strzok is unique in that he sent a series of text messages to senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page insulting Trump, and these were later made public by the Department of Justice. They eventually cost Strzok his place on Robert Mueller’s investigative team. Here’s the one that really boiled Republican blood, from the Times:
In one exchange, Ms. Page, who also worked on both investigations, said to Mr. Strzok that Trump is “not ever going to become president, right?”
“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Mr. Strzok replied.
That episode was at the center of an exchange at the hearing—a hearing which immediately broke down into mutual disdain and even outright anger—that is now making the rounds. Outgoing Congressman Trey Gowdy brought up that text and another in which Strzok said Hillary Clinton should win “100 million to zero.” When Strzok said he didn’t appreciate Gowdy twisting his words, Gowdy fired back:
“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, agent Strzok. I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations in 2016.”
Watch Strzok defend himself:
“To suggest we can parse down the shorthand like they’re some contract for a car is simply not consistent with my or most people’s use of text messaging,” Strzok said, practically yelling at Gowdy. The most effective rhetoric came when he addressed the text directly:
You need to understand that 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, and 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.”
When his speech concluded, Democrats in the room applauded.
This, I think, is a smart tactic—playing defense would allow the Republicans to continue insinuating guilt, while going on the offensive against their inquisitors casts the accusations in their proper partisan light. Strzok further went on to emphasize that no text he sent would ever influence his conduct in an investigation against the president, and that Republican attempts to undermine the FBI were a “victory notch in Putin’s belt.”
For of more Strzok’s testimony, this video thread from Think Progress’ Aaron Rupar is a great resource.