Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had harsh words for FBI agent Peter Strzok during questioning Thursday about the behavior that got Strzok kicked off special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
“I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016,” Gowdy told Strzok during a contentious exchange about Strzok’s alleged bias while investigating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Gowdy pressed Strzok about the quickness with which he jumped to the conclusion of impeaching Trump within a day of Mueller’s investigation beginning, but Strzok insisted he had no bias.
“Do you remember how long it took for you to start talking about impeachment after Bob Mueller was appointed?” Gowdy asked.
“I don’t, sir,” Strzok replied.
“One day,” Gowdy answered, referring to the record of text messages. “One day, and you were talking about impeachment. And for anyone who may have missed it the day after his appointment, agent Strzok, you did it again five days later.”
Strzok came under fire after it was revealed he sent texts to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he had an affair, in which he praised Clinton and lambasted Trump. When Page asked Strzok if Trump could be elected, he replied by saying “we’ll stop it,” and also said Clinton should win the election 100 million votes to zero.
“Now, how many interviews had you done as part of the special counsel team within the first five days of his appointment?” Gowdy asked.
Strzok claimed the FBI did not permit him to answer, but Gowdy said he knew Strzok had conducted no interviews, even though he was talking in texts about how “terrifying” Trump was. “No interviews had been done by August the eight when you’re talking about stopping him, and how terrifying it would be for him to win … and no interviews had been done when you were talking about impeachment of the president,” Gowdy said.
He continued to press the FBI agent about how his views on Trump may have biased his work, noting it wasn’t the text messages themselves that led to his firing from the special counsel probe.
“It wasn’t the discovery of your texts – it was the existence of your bias that got you kicked off,” Gowdy said.
“No, Mr. Gowdy, it wasn’t,” Strzok said.
Strzok insisted no bias impacted his work and that it was only due to perception that Mueller fired him. (Strzok is still employed by the FBI.)
“I do not have bias,” Strzok said, saying the only problem was perception.
Gowdy said others in Mueller’s probe had perceived bias but had not been fired, and he told Strzok his problem was in fact bias. He asked Strzok what Mueller told him when he was removed from the investigation, and Strzok reiterated that Mueller kicked him off based on appearance rather than bias.
“My testimony, what you asked and what I responded to, was that he kicked me off because of my bias. I am stating to you it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias, that it was based on the appearance,” Strzok said. “If you want to represent what you said accurately, I’m happy to answer that question. But I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”
“I give a damn what you appreciate, agent Strzok” Gowdy replied. “I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”