FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok — who has been painted by President Donald Trump and House Republicans as the villain behind a corrupt Russia “witch hunt” — will tell lawmakers Thursday that he never allowed anti-Trump sentiment to affect his work.
“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 plans to say, according to excerpts from his opening statement to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, his first public remarks on the matter.
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Strzok will instead cast his decision to help launch and lead the FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election as an act of patriotism in defense of American democracy. And he plans to take a swing at congressional Republicans for targeting him as the bad guy.
“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 plans to say.
Trump and GOP allies have fixated on Strzok after a series of text messages — unearthed by a Justice Department watchdog — revealed deep anti-Trump sentiment from Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page.
The two shared critiques of figures on both sides of the aisle but saved their sharpest vitriol for Trump. Strzok indicated in one 2016 message that Trump wouldn’t become president because “we’ll stop it.”
Strzok played a central role in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the Russia probe and even joined Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team briefly. Mueller removed Strzok after DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz uncovered Strzok’s messages.
Horowitz’s recent report describing misjudgments and misconduct by some top FBI officials in the Clinton investigation singled out Strzok for casting a cloud over the bureau but also found no evidence that Strzok’s personal views affected the outcome of the Clinton probe. He’s still reviewing Strzok’s handling of the Russia probe.
Page was expected to testify behind closed doors on Wednesday but defied a congressional subpoena after her lawyer accused the committees of “bullying tactics” and failing to give her a chance to prepare. GOP lawmakers rejected the claim and threatened to hold her in contempt of Congress if she refuses to appear by Friday morning.
Trump has spent months attacking Strzok and Page on Twitter — routinely calling them “lovers” (a reference to their reported affair) and suggesting the Mueller probe is illegitimate because of Strzok’s brief role in it. He accused both of ducking congressional testimony, though Strzok has already testified for 11 hours privately to the two House committees and Page’s lawyer Amy Jeffress indicated she had already given testimony to a different committee. Jeffress also said Page is willing to testify later in the month.
“As I head out to a very important NATO meeting, I see that FBI Lover/Agent Lisa Page is dodging a Subpoena & is refusing to show up and testify,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning from Brussels. “What can she possibly say about her statements and lies.”