WASHINGTON – An FBI agent whose anti-Trump textual content messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias mentioned at a bitterly contentious and infrequently chaotic listening to in Congress on Thursday that his work has by no means been tainted by politics, angrily rejecting Republican allegations that he got down to cease Donald Trump from turning into president.
Peter Strzok testified publicly for the primary time since being faraway from particular counsel Robert Mueller’s staff, telling lawmakers that texts he traded with an FBI lawyer within the run-up to the 2016 presidential election mirrored private views that he by no means as soon as acted on.
“At no time, in any of these texts, did these private beliefs ever enter into the realm of any motion I took,” Strzok mentioned.
He insisted beneath aggressive questioning that an August 2016 textual content wherein he mentioned “We’ll cease” a Trump presidency adopted Trump’s denigration of the household of a useless U.S. service member. He mentioned it was his private view, written late at night time and off-the-cuff, of “horrible, disgusting behaviour” by the Republican presidential candidate.
WATCH: Former FBI agent Strzok grilled as GOP lawmakers spar
However, he added in a raised voice and emphatic tone, “It was by no means – unequivocally – any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any motion by any means to improperly influence the electoral course of for any candidate.” Some Democrats applauded after he completed talking.
Republican members of the Home judiciary and oversight committees grilled Strzok as they argued that the textual content messages exchanged with FBI lawyer Lisa Web page color the end result of the Hillary Clinton electronic mail investigation and undercut the continued investigation into Russian election interference. Strzok, a seasoned counterintelligence agent, helped lead each investigations however has since been reassigned to human assets.
WATCH: Democrat praises Peter Strzok, blames Trump for ‘kangeroo court docket’
“Agent Strzok had Hillary Clinton successful the White Home earlier than he completed investigating her,” mentioned Rep. Trey Gowdy, Republican chairman of the Home Oversight and Authorities Reform Committee. “Agent Strzok had Donald Trump impeached earlier than he even began investigating him. That’s bias. Agent Strzok might not see it however the remainder of the nation does, and it’s not what we wish, anticipate or deserve from any legislation enforcement officer a lot much less the FBI.”
The listening to briefly devolved into chaos and open yelling as Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte mentioned Strzok wanted to reply Republicans’ questions and advised they may recess the listening to and maintain him in contempt. Democrats objected to Goodlatte’s repeated makes an attempt to get Strzok to reply. Goodlatte finally let the listening to proceed with out calling the panel into recess.
WATCH: Democrat assaults Republicans, Trump throughout Strzok listening to
In his opening assertion, Strzok mentioned he has by no means allowed private opinions to contaminate his work, that he knew info in the course of the marketing campaign that had the potential to break Trump however by no means contemplated leaking it and that the concentrate on him by Congress is misguided and performs into “our enemies’ marketing campaign to tear America aside.”
Strzok acknowledged that whereas his textual content message criticism was “blunt,” it was not directed at one particular person or political get together and included jabs not solely at Trump but additionally at Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Let me be clear, unequivocally and beneath oath: Not as soon as in my 26 years of defending my nation did my private opinions influence any official motion I took,” he mentioned.
He mentioned he was one of many few folks in the course of the 2016 election who knew the main points of Russian election interference and its doable connections with folks within the Trump orbit, and that that info may have derailed Trump’s election possibilities. “However,” he mentioned, “the considered exposing that info by no means crossed my thoughts.”
WATCH: Republican lawmaker asserts Strzok’s phrases, angle show bias
Though Strzok has mentioned by means of his lawyer that he was keen to inform his aspect of the story, he made clear his exasperation at being the focus of a congressional listening to at a time when Russian election interference has been efficiently “sowing discord in our nation and shaking religion in our establishments.”
“I’ve the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight function, however I really imagine that at this time’s listening to is simply one other victory notch in Putin’s belt and one other milestone in our enemies’ marketing campaign to tear America aside,” Strzok mentioned. “As somebody who loves this nation and cherishes its beliefs, it’s profoundly painful to look at and even worse to play a component in.”
WATCH: Robert Mueller information new fees in opposition to Trump’s ex-campaign chair Paul Manafort in Russia probe
He additionally flatly rejected the president’s characterizations of Mueller’s work and the specter of Russian election interference, saying, “This investigation will not be politically motivated, it’s not a witch hunt, it’s not a hoax.”
The contentious listening to adopted hours of closed-door questioning final week. It additionally displays an effort to shift consideration away from the content material of Strzok’s texts and onto what he says is the extra urgent subject: the Russians’ “grave assault” on American democracy and persevering with efforts to divide the nation.
However Republicans keen for methods to discredit Mueller’s investigation have for months held up the texts from Strzok and Web page to help allegations of anti-Trump bias inside federal legislation enforcement.
WATCH: Extra textual content messages from FBI agent Peter Strzok come to gentle
The Justice Division’s inspector common has criticized Strzok and Web page for creating the looks of impropriety by means of the texts. However the report mentioned it discovered no proof of political bias within the FBI’s determination to not pursue felony fees in opposition to Clinton. And lots of Democrats say actions taken by legislation enforcement in the course of the marketing campaign season – together with saying a reopening of the investigation into Clinton simply days earlier than the election – really wound up harming the Democratic candidate and aiding the Republican candidate, Trump.
FBI Director Chris Wray says staff who have been singled out for criticism within the inspector common’s report have been referred to inside disciplinary officers. Strzok’s lawyer has mentioned he was escorted from the FBI constructing final month because the disciplinary course of winds its method by means of the system.
Web page, who has additionally been subpoenaed, is predicted to talk to lawmakers at a non-public assembly on Friday.