An FBI agent who sent text messages criticising Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign passionately defended himself during an explosive congressional hearing.
The US House of Representatives session descended into chaos yesterday as Republicans and Democrats shouted and traded insults as agent Peter Strzok gave evidence.
During the bad-tempered hearing, Strzok debunked the long-held Republican conspiracy theory that there is anti-Trump bias within the ranks of the FBI, which, they claim, favoured Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton .
Strzok vigorously rejected accusations that his personal political views had ever affected his official work.
Before Strzok took questions from committee members, he read a statement in which he highlighted that, if the FBI was biased in favour of Clinton, they had a counterproductive way of showing it.
There is… one extraordinarily important piece of evidence supporting my integrity, the integrity of the FBI, and our lack of bias, Strzok said.
In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russia election interference and its possible connection with members of the Trump campaign.
This information had the potential to derail and quite possibly defeat Mr Trump, but the thought of expressing that or exposing that information never crossed my mind.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still investigating alleged Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign aides.
The President has repeatedly branded the probe, which began more than a year ago, a witch hunt.
During the hearing, Republicans attacked the FBI, as Trump himself has done, while Democrats said the hearing played into the Kremlin’s hands.
Luis Gutierrez, the Democratic Representative for Illinois, said when it was his turn to question Strzok Congratulations Kremlin, and congratulations to everyone who is helping them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin , who will meet with Trump in Helsinki on Monday, has repeatedly denied US intelligence agency conclusions that Moscow interfered in the campaign.
Strzok said during the session, convened by two Republican-controlled committees Today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.
Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the centrist American Enterprise Institute, said the Republicans at the hearing showed no notion of seeing Russia as an adversary and they were all trying to do what Donald Trump wants them to do.
This is going to undermine confidence in the FBI and other intelligence agencies, he said. There is collateral damage from these attacks that isn’t even being taken into account.
Representative Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in his opening statement that the hearing was necessary.
The more information we acquire, the more interviews we conduct, and the more sources we contact, the more we learn.
Strzok worked on the Russia investigation, which the FBI started but that Mueller later took over.
Mueller was appointed by a top Justice Department official following Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
Strzok was reassigned from the Russia investigation. He earlier had worked on an FBI investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while she was secretary of state.
He and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page were having an affair during the campaign and exchanged thousands of politically charged texts. Some criticised Trump and some criticised Clinton.
In one text, Page asked Strzok if Trump was going to be president. Strzok replied No, he’s not. We’ll stop it.
Strzok said on Thursday that the we in the text referred to the American people because he believed Trump would not win the election after criticising families whose relatives had been killed while serving in the US military.
He said he had expressed personal political opinions during an extraordinary presidential election and that at times his criticism was blunt, but that it was not limited to Trump.
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, Strzok told the committees.
Republican lawmakers asked Strzok to read aloud many of his texts. His attempts to explain them were often halted by the Republicans, who insisted he read them verbatim without providing more details.
There were more than 75 lawmakers present at some point during the hearing – nearly a fifth of the House. They often interrupted Strzok and one another.
It’s a fraud, this hearing is a kangaroo court, it is a three-ring circus, Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries said more than six hours into the hearing.
Strzok declined to answer a question from Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, about interviews he conducted during the FBI’s Russia probe, saying the agency had directed him not to discuss ongoing investigations.
Goodlatte threatened to hold Strzok in contempt at the end of the hearing if he did not answer Gowdy’s question.
The seldom-enforced charge of contempt of Congress can be brought against someone for obstructing investigations. It is potentially punishable by imprisonment and a fine but requires several procedural steps.
Strzok appeared before lawmakers in Congress last month for a closed-door interview. Page will attend a closed-door interview on Friday with the committees.
News Source MirrorNews