Congressional hearings are usually boring affairs, but that was not the case when South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy tore into FBI agent Peter Strzok like a child who got caught stealing candy. It was one of the most combative exchanges in the history of Congressional hearings and thrilling to watch.
Rep. Gowdy said that Strzok showed “textbook bias” in his involvement in the investigations into President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. He said that Strzok had Clinton “winning the White House” before he started her investigation and had President Trump impeached before he started the investigation into his alleged ties to Russian interference into the presidential election.
“The moment special counsel Bob Mueller found out about Peter Strzok’s text and emails he kicked him off of the investigation,” Rep. Gowdy said. “But that was a year and a half too late. The text and emails may have been discovered in May of 2017, but the bias existed and was manifest a year and a half before that. All the way back to late 2015 and early 2016. So it wasn’t the discovery of texts that got him fired, it was the bias manifest in those texts that made him unfit to objectively and dispassionately investigate.”
“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,” Agent Strzok said in his opening statement. “This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of expressing that or exposing that information never crossed my mind.”
During the questioning, Rep. Gowdy asked Strzok, “Bob Mueller is appointed, your friend Jim Comey has been fired… Do you remember how long it took for you to start talking about impeachment after Mueller was appointed?”
Strzok answered that he did not remember.
“One day,” Rep. Gowdy shot back.
But things got combative to an insane degree when Rep. Gowdy asked Strzok how many people he interviewed during the first week of the Russia probe. Strzok declined to answer the question, and it set off a firestorm.
“I will not, based on direction of the FBI… answer that question, because it goes to matters which are related to the ongoing investigations being undertaken by the special counsel’s office,” Strzok said. That answer did not suffice for Rep. Gowdy or House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.
Rep. Goodlatte threatened to hold Strzok in contempt, which prompted a shouting match between Republican and Democrat lawmakers. “Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question,” Rep. Goodlatte said. Strzok asked if he could talk to the FBI general counsel before he answered to which Rep. Goodlatte said, “Only with your own counsel.”
New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee sprang into action, screaming at Rep. Goodlatte. “Mr. Chairman, there’s no basis for that,” he shouted. “He can consult with the FBI counsel, he’s an FBI employee.”
Screaming ensued back and forth between Republican and Democrat members of the committee until Strzok was able to address the questioning he received from Rep. Gowdy. He told the South Carolina representative that he did not “appreciate” the way Rep. Gowdy had characterized his work on the Russia investigation and the insinuation that he had a bias towards President Trump.
“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok,” Rep. Gowdy shot back.
Will anything come out of these hearings? That is anyone’s guess and, if history is a judge, the answer is no. But the theatrics are spectacular.