WASHINGTON — FBI agent Peter Strzok, who has become notorious for exchanging anti-Trump text messages with his co-worker girlfriend, said Thursday that his political beliefs never affected his work on the Russia or Clinton investigations.
“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 said in written testimony released just prior to his public appearance before two House committees.
“This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference, and for every other investigation I’ve worked on,” Strzok said, surrounded by news photographers as he sat alone at a table in a chamber packed with a standing-room only crowd. “It is not who I am, and it is not something I would ever do. Period.”
Strzok helped lead the investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. However, he was removed from the Russia probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last summer when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered texts between Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016.
To underscore his assertion that he was not biased during those probes, Strzok said he never revealed that the FBI had opened an investigation in the summer of 2016 into Russian interference in the election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
“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 Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”
He is facing hostile Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who point to his 2016 text messages with former FBI attorney Lisa Page as evidence of bias by the FBI and Department of Justice against Trump and in favor of Clinton. Strzok and Page were having an extramarital affair at the time they were exchanging texts.
“Like many people, I had and expressed personal political opinions during an extraordinary Presidential election,” Strzok said. “Many contained expressions of concern for the security of our country — opinions that were not always expressed in terms I am proud of.”
Strzok said he criticized Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others in the text messages as well as Trump.
“At times my criticism was blunt, but despite how it’s been characterized, it was not limited to one person or one party,” Strzok siaid.
He acknowledged that his testimony is unlikely to satisfy his critics.
“I understand that my sworn testimony will not be enough for some people,” Strzok said. “After all, Americans are skeptical of anything they hear out of Washington. But the fact is, after months of investigations, there is simply no evidence of bias in my professional actions.”
Strzok was subpoenaed last week by the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about the text messages he exchanged with Page.
In a report to Congress released last month, Horowitz said that Page wrote to Strzok in a text message: “(Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right?” In response, Strzok wrote: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
However, Horowitz found no evidence that the FBI or DOJ were motivated by political bias in deciding not to prosecute Clinton for using a private email server to send and receive sensitive information.
The report characterized the politically charged text messages between Strzok and Page as “antithetical to the core values of the FBI.” Still, investigators “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.”
The report also said that Strzok repeatedly pushed for more aggressive action in the Clinton probe.
Page has left the bureau. Strzok is still employed with the FBI, but was escorted from FBI headquarters in June while his personnel case is under review.
The same committees that are questioning Strzok have also subpoenaed Page and have threatened her with contempt of Congress if she does not appear.
Democrats say that Republicans are focusing on Strzok and Page in an effort to undermine Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Strzok already answered 11 hours of questions from committee members during a closed hearing late last month, and he was angered by selective leaks of his testimony by lawmakers.
Both Strzok’s attorney and congressional Democrats have called on GOP committee leaders to release a transcript of that lengthy interview. Strzok was angry that only selective parts of his testimony were leaked by committee members.
Strzok was on President Trump’s mind Wednesday night while Trump was attending a NATO meeting in Brussels.
“How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok?” Trump tweeted. “Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!”
Strzok said Russian interference in the 2016 election “was a grave attack on our democracy” and must be taken seriously.
“Most disturbingly, it has been wildly successful — sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions,” Strzok said.”I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”
He said it is “profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in.”