- FBI special agent Peter Strzok issued a blistering retort to suggestions that he acted to improperly influence the outcome of the 2016 election when he sent a text to FBI lawyer Lisa Page saying that “we’ll stop” Donald Trump from winning.
- Strzok said he sent the text after Trump made the “horrible, disgusting” decision to insult the family of a slain US soldier during the election.
- He emphasised that he never allowed his political beliefs to “enter into the realm of any action I took,” adding that there were multiple other FBI officials above and below him who were involved in every decision he made.
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FBI agent Peter Strzok finally explained on Thursday what he was thinking when he sent a text saying “we’ll stop” Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
That text, and others he sent FBI lawyer Lisa Page, were one of the reasons Republican lawmakers hauled him in to testify. He appeared at a joint hearing before the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee for several hours.
Strzok was there to publicly address Republican accusations that he sought to improperly affect the outcome of the 2016 US election, and had a heated back-and-forth with Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
Gowdy has repeatedly slammed Strzok and other top FBI officials for being politically biased against Trump, and suggested that Strzok allowed bias to affect decisions he made in the FBI’s Russia probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
GOP lawmakers have seized on a text message Strzok sent at the height of the election to Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair. After Page asked Strzok whether Trump would win the election, Strzok replied that he would not, adding that “we’ll stop it.”
When Gowdy brought up the text message on Thursday, Strzok told him it was important to look at the texts in their full context given what was happening in the country at the time.
“In terms of [that text], 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,” Strzok said. He was referring to Trump’s mockery of the Gold Star family of US Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in the Iraq war.
Strzok said that “based on that horrible, disgusting behaviour,” he assumed Americans would not elect Trump. “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.”
He added that he took “great offence” to Gowdy’s suggestion that he allowed bias to seep into his professional decisions.
Strzok played a critical role in both the Clinton and Russia probes. He and Page were kicked off the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team last year after Mueller discovered their text messages and he has since been reassigned within the bureau.
Strzok volunteered to testify before Congress after the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report last month that revealed how senior FBI officials repeatedly expressed their support for Clinton and denigrated Trump during the election.
But Horowitz concluded that the FBI did not allow any bias to impact its conclusions in the Clinton investigation.
“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. “Furthermore, this isn’t just me sitting here telling you. You don’t have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there are multiple layers of people above me … and multiple layers of people below me … all of whom were involved in all of these decisions.”
He concluded: “They would not tolerate any improper behaviour in me any more than I would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the FBI.”
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