Embattled FBI Agent Peter Strzok, whose cache of anti-Trump text messages provided Republican officials an opportunity to perpetuate theories about the intelligence agency being biased against the president, recently appeared before the House Judiciary and House Oversight committee which soon devolved into a full-blown bilateral shouting match.
Strzok, who played a prominent role in the probe on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email server and then-confidential investigation into the alleged ties between Trump campaign and Russian operatives, sparked controversy after some of the texts he sent to former FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair with, became public.
Those text messages, sent during the 2016 election campaign, were extremely critical of several political figures – most notably, Trump, whom he even called an “idiot.” The messages provided the commander-in-chief and his supporters with enough fodder to attack the bureau for working against Trump, even though just shortly after the messages were uncovered, Strzok was kicked off the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the possible collusion between Trump and the Kremlin.
However, in his first public testimony since parting ways with the Mueller probe, Strzok defiantly defended himself even as the lawmakers relentlessly grilled him.
“At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took," the agent said. “The suggestion that I'm in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me – it simply couldn't happen.”
While the entire hearing was raucous and chaotic with lawmakers bringing up Strzok’s marriage and yelling at each other, these are some of the most outrageous moments from the event.
1. Rep. Louie Gohmert brought up Strzok’s personal transgressions
"This is intolerable harassment of a witness!"— ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2018
In a chaotic moment at House Judiciary hearing, Rep. Louie Gohmert asks FBI Agent Peter Strzok how many times he lied to his wife. The question drew cries of outrage from Democratic members. https://t.co/M3YsVmNmn5 pic.twitter.com/f0nEkO5ewO
“I've talked to FBI agents around the country. You've embarrassed them; you've embarrassed yourself," Republican Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert told the FBI agent at one point during his testimony. “And I can't help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”
This blatant attack on Strzok’s character prompted several lawmakers, notably Democrats, to burst into protest.
“This is an intolerable harassment of a witness!" yelled Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, while New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson shouted, “What is wrong with us? You need your medication.”
Strzok’s response was just as biting.
“The fact that you would question whether or not that was the sort of look I would engage with in a family member who I have acknowledged hurting, goes more to a discussion about your character and what you stand for and what is going inside you,” he said.
2. GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte threatened Strzok with contempt
Here’s the Strzok response to Rep Gowdy.....https://t.co/bFEaQSQDmU— Kate Bolduan (@KateBolduan) July 12, 2018
In his opening statement, Strzok told the lawmakers he was advised not to answer question about the ongoing Mueller investigation. The Republicans on the committee, however, were not pleased by that.
In fact, Judiciary Committee's Republican Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte even threatened to hold Strzok in contempt for not answering their questions, despite the fact Democrats found it odd for Republicans to pressurize Strzok to divulge information about such a high-profile and sensitive case in a public setting.
“Mr. Chairman, I do not believe I am here under subpoena,” the agent told Goodlatte. “I believe I am here voluntarily. Based on that, I will not answer that question.”
His answer prompted several lawmakers to raise their voices and point fingers at each other.
3. Strzok turned the tables on the Republicans
STRZOK characterizes the House Republican charade as "deeply corrosive to what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission and deeply destructive." A smattering of applause breaks out in chamber. pic.twitter.com/UO1tk974r3— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 12, 2018
During a fiery exchange with House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy, Strzok defended the most controversial of the text message between him and Page, the one where he wrote “No he won't. We'll stop it,” after Page shared her concern that Trump would win the presidential election.
Explaining his action, the FBI agent said he wrote those words late at night following Trump’s disparaging remarks towards the family of fallen Muslim-American soldier Humayun Khan.
“My presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior [was] that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok told Gowdy. “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.”
He also slammed the Republican efforts to undermine the FBI as “deeply corrosive to what the F.B.I. is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission and deeply destructive.”
4. Rep. Darrell Issa forced Strzok to read his own texts
California Rep. Darrell Issa asked the embattled agent to read some of the texts he shared with Page – including ones where he had used the f-word while talking about then-candidate Trump.
It was while reading one such text message when Strzok paused and Issa demanded he read the message again.
“Sir, was that not intelligible?” Strzok inquired. “You just want to hear – for me to repeat it.”
When the Republican responded with a “please,” Strzok shot back with, “happy to indulge you.”
5. Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries compared the hearing to a “circus”
WATCH: Hakeem Jeffries @RepJeffries MIC DROP— La Femme Nikita (@nicolenavega) July 12, 2018
"My colleagues in the cover-up caucus don't like that criminal investigation & therefore they need to identify a villain. Mr. Strzok, tag you're it." #StrozkHearing 1/2 pic.twitter.com/li3rNAv2sb
As the hearing got heated, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries decided to jump in with some pop-culture references that could have possibly gone over the heads of quite a few of the lawmakers present at the hearing.
“This investigation is a joke. It’s a fraud,” he said. “This hearing is a kangaroo court. It is a three-ring circus. It is not even meritorious of an investigation by Ace Ventura, pet detective—let alone 75 members of the United States Congress.”
Last but not the least
6. The Purple Heart Moment
What an insult to wounded service members:— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 12, 2018
Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen tells disgraced FBI agent Strzok: "If I could give you a Purple Heart, I would. You deserve one." pic.twitter.com/G47C5GhSLk
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen drew criticism from congressional Republicans after he said Strzok deserved a Purple Heart medal for his testimony.
“If I could give you a Purple Heart, I would. You deserve one,” the Tennessee lawmaker told the FBI official.
It is important to note the Purple Heart is “one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces” and is given to service members injured or killed in combat.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Joshua Roberts