Peter Strzok Testifies Before House Committees

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in June 2017

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in June 2017

Peter Strzok, who helped lead FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton's email use and potential coordination between Russian Federation and Donald Trump's campaign, was testifying publicly for the first time since being removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team following the discovery of the derogatory text messages a year ago.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman presiding over the joint committee hearing, tried to force Strzok to answer the question from Gowdy regarding the number of witnesses interviewed as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into President Donald Trump's campaign last summer. "But that was a year and a half too late". He described the texts as "hate filled and biased". "So it wasn't the discovery of texts that got him fired, it was the bias manifest in those texts that made him unfit to objectively and dispassionately investigate".

An FBI agent who criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in text messages during the 2016 election campaign vigorously defended himself on Thursday, telling a heated congressional hearing that his personal political views had never affected his official work.

At the conclusion of his remarks, several Democratic members of the committees audibly cheered.

Strzok remains with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, albeit removed from his old investigative job.

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Strzok told lawmakers in his opening statement that he followed department protocol handling sensitive information about the extent of Russia's meddling in the US election and the Trump team's potential role in it.

The sharp tone of Strzok's statement sets the stage for a contentious hearing following hours of closed-door questioning last week.

On Thursday, Gowdy pressed Strzok to answer what "it" meant. It also reflects an effort to shift attention away from the content of Strzok's texts and onto what he says is the more pressing issue: the Russians' "grave attack" on American democracy and continuing efforts to divide the country.

"I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time, in any of these texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took", Strzok told Gowdy on Thursday.

"Congressman, as you know, counsel for the FBI, based on the special counsel's equities, has instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to interfere".

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GOWDY: 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 during 2016". Strzok had sent Page a link to an article on Trump's criticism of the Khans, adding "F Trump".

"In terms of the texts that we will stop it", he continued, "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 frightful, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect someone demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States". Right?!" Strzok responded, "No.

Strzok pointed out that he was not under subpoena and appearing before the committee voluntarily, which appeared to infuriate Goodlatte even more. Her lawyer said Page had offered to voluntarily appear before the committees later this month but needed more clarification about what the lawmakers would be asking.

Strzok noted that he sent text messages critical of other 2016 candidates including Sen.

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