Chaos Erupts During Congressional Testimony by Anti-Trump FBI Agent Peter Strzok

U.S. President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Jonathan Ernst Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

"At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took", Strzok said. He and an FBI lawyer he sent the messages to briefly worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian Federation, but were dismissed from the team previous year even though FBI agents are not prohibited from privately expressing political views. He described the texts as "hate filled and biased".

Goodlatte, who was chairing the joint hearing, brought up Strzok's text messages in reference to what he thought about Trump supporters, asking "what does Trump support smell like?" and also asked if he thought the president's base was made up of "hillbillies".

The last part of comment, referencing the extramarital affair between Strzok and Page, prompted jeers from others on the committee, including one person who could be heard saying, "This is outrageous".

In a testy hearing full of heated exchanges, perhaps the most memorable - at least, in the early hours of what is sure to be an emotionally charged, all-day hearing - was one between former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy.

Goodlatte threatened to hold Strzok in contempt after the committee devolved into a partisan brawl over whether Strzok could answer questions about the Russian Federation investigation.

Strzok declined to answer, saying that FBI counsel instructed him not to answer questions about an ongoing investigation.

In opening the hearing, Goodlatte said Strzok and other senior Federal Bureau of Investigation officials "turned our system of justice on its head, and that's why we're here, and why this matters". Nadler retorted, to which Goodlatte responded, "The chairman is being proper".

But IG Michael Horowitz "did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected those specific investigative decisions", he told the House Judiciary Committee on June 19. "But those concerns were not specific in my mind to NY".

Goodlatte said he issued a subpoena to compel Page to talk to lawmakers Wednesday, but her attorney said she would not appear.

"Mr. Chairman, I do not believe I am here under subpoena, " Strzok said.

As far as Gowdy's actual question goes, it turned out Strzok's refusal to answer didn't even matter.

"Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question", Goodlatte said.

"I understand his point is, 'Well, that bias didn't infiltrate into my work, into my conduct in the professional capacity, ' but you can understand why, when you look at the language of those texts, that it's very easy to point to a bias that this F.B.I. agent was expressing", Chalian continued.

"I want to know what "it" meant, Agent Strzok", Gowdy said. 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.

"My presumption [was] based on that awful, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States, " he said.

"But 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".

But later, Strzok testified that he wrote the text "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 [was] that the American population would not elect someone demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States". Page will attend a closed-door interview on Friday with the committees.

Democrats argued that a witness such as Strzok would not be expected to publicly disclose sensitive information like the blueprint for a hydrogen bomb.

The ranking Democrat on the panel, Jerrold Nadler of NY, urged Republicans not to use the Strzok hearing to attack special counsel Robert Mueller.

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