FBI official Peter Strzok tried to defend his actions during the investigations of Hillary Clinton and any Russian election meddling during the 2016 presidential election in a contentious congressional hearing that stretched 10 hours Thursday.
The joint hearing before the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committees Thursday became emotionally charged, and at times, highly personal, as bitter partisan arguments erupted. Strzok's anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias in the FBI.
Congressional investigators are continuing to probe the Department of Justice and FBI after an internal inspector general report released last month criticized leadership at the top levels during the Clinton investigation. While the report ultimately found political bias did not affect the final conclusion of the investigation, it raised serious questions about the FBI's integrity during the contentious election.
Strzok faced particularly intense questioning from South Carolina's Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the oversight committee, and Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who highlighted Strzok's extramarital romantic relationship with fellow FBI agent Lisa Page and appeared to question Strzok's integrity and how he faced his wife.
"How many times did you look in your wife's eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page?" Gohmert declared, to rebuke from Democrats on the panel, one of whom blurted out asking whether he'd taken his medications that day.
In revelations from the inspector general report, Strzok exchanged troubling communications with Page in which he appeared adamant that they would "stop" then-candidate Trump from ever becoming president. Page and Strzok both worked on the FBI investigation into Clinton's emails and, later, on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The texts, in addition to previously released exchanges, have since given ammunition to the claim from conservatives that Strzok and others in the FBI were actively working against Mr. Trump.
Strzok told the panel Thursday that he "doesn't recall" writing the text, saying that it was an off-the-cuff message written late at night, and it did not suggest that he or the FBI would take any action to intervene in election. He also said that he wrote the text in response to Mr. Trump's comments about a Gold Star family.