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Partisan Shouting Match Erupts at FBI Agent Hearing; FBI Agent Who Sent Anti-Trump Texts Grilled by Lawmakers. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 12, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] REP. TED DEUTCH (D) FLORIDA: Do you've been asked about this investigation. Are you concerned that the inspector general can investigate you and issue a report just like this one that says that you should never have done that?
PETER STRZOK, FBI OFFICIAL: Certainly, that's possible. I'd be more worried about the impact on the ongoing investigation.
DEUTCH: I understand. It's a ridiculous position to put you in. The inspect general explains in this nearly 600-page report that the mistake Director Comey made was discussing the ongoing steps the FBI was taking in the Hillary Clinton investigation. Here's what we've heard today. We heard it from the chairman. We heard it and my colleagues. You've got two choices. You can ignore the FBI's policy that has been put in place to protect these investigations. And I'm going to let you talk about that in a second and answer the questions. In which case maybe, you trigger an IG report, or you don't answer those questions and maybe we hold you in contempt. Now can you just again since this has been a really long day, can you explain why it is important not to interfere with ongoing criminal matters?
STRZOK: There are a variety and I'm sure I won't come up with all the reasons. But the first is we do a lot of investigations where we never charge anybody. And it's simply not fair to give the investigative power we have to do something that would unnecessarily tarnish them and their image. Two, in the cases where we are investigating, talking about it is going to screw up a bunch of things. You might want to do investigative talking to witnesses, talking to the subject, and then finally we want somebody to have a fair trial. And if we're talking about it or putting our finger on the scale it just would be horribly inappropriate and against what we stand for in the criminal justice system.
DEUTCH: And the negative consequences on that outcome of that investigation?
STRZOK: That would be tremendous.
Would adversely impact potentially the ability to get a fair trial, to conduct a competent investigation, to conduct one that arrived at the truth.
DEUTCH: Right. Mr. Strzok, I appreciate that last comment. And I would just urge my colleagues that in the midst of this apoplexy that seems to be breaking out among some of my colleagues, that remember that ultimately what we're really trying to do here is get to the truth and the truth that we need to get to is exactly what a hostile foreign adversary did to interfere with our democracy. Let's please keep that in mind as we move forward. Let's make that the focus. That's what the American people are expecting. That's what they're counting on us to do. Get out of the way, let this investigation go forward. Let's get to the truth. I yield back the balance of my time.
TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Marino, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. TOM MARINO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Strzok, I have here, and I'm sure you're familiar with it, the ethics handbook of Department of Justice of which the FBI falls under.
MARINO: And there are several paragraphs that I want to read to you. First one is general principles of ethical conduct continued. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law, or the ethical standards set forth. Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that the law or these standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with the knowledge of the relevant facts.
Next is appearance of impropriety. An employee shall endeavor to avoid any actions created in the appearance that the employee is violating the law, or the ethical standards set forth in these guidelines.
Furthermore, it states for employees for whom a security clearance is required -- and you do have a security clearance, correct?
STRZOK: Today I do, yes.
MARINO: You've had one for quite a while. Are they then the circumstances?
MARINO: For performance of their official duties, prohibited conduct and more may be grounds for suspension, revocation of clearance. This could also result in adverse disciplinary action, including suspension or removal.
Under the Hatch Act. All federal employees you may vote, express opinions and make political contributions under the Hatch Act. Active participation in political activities by federal employees is restricted. And employees -- and I want you to listen to this very carefully -- serving in certain positions are more restricted than others. If you are a person that falls into that category as well. I am just actually disheartened about the situation that you are in. And I say this with no prejudice and I think you are your own worst enemy.
[11:05:00] You have an answer for everything. You have an attitude that is very obvious today and you are the kind of witness that you and I as a prosecutor for 18 years, a district attorney, and a U.S. attorney would love to get on the stand. And the reasonableness of the statements that you made -- and I am not going to get into the language -- but the repetitiveness of it, where was your judgment? What were you not thinking when you were sending the e-mails and your statements that you made and the comments of the people in Virginia? I would expect someone of your caliber to be way above that. You got carried away and you got impressed with yourself and you're in a position that I am sorry that's the case.
But if you are trying to draw a distinction, a wide distinction between bias and political opinion, there's not the wide distinction that you are drawing at this point. Because I would bet the farm that if you were sitting next to me as the investigating prosecutor and I was the prosecutor, and Judge Puller and other judge were handing in a case whether it's civil or criminal, you and I would be pointing out the biases that I see that you have exhibited here. I just don't understand your judgment based on your background and you may respond to that.
STRZOK: Sir, I appreciate your comments and I appreciate your concern. The first thing I would tell you is I'm disappointed if you did not understand the amount of regret that I express from the beginning of my opening statement to the harming and damage that this has caused to the people I love --
MARINO: I do understand that now. But it's in hindsight and people like you and I that are here to protect the citizens, we should be thinking of this before.
STRZOK: Congressman without question and I would absolutely agree with you that there are things that I regret in retrospect and I hope that comes across today. I know a large portion of today have been combative in a way that has nothing to do with my sense of regret and remorse. I would draw since you brought up the ethics manual, I would note in that manual and further restrict employees, every FBI employee, many DOJ employees, other members of the intelligence community are restricted. But within that category, if you read that manual, citing the Hatch Act, it says except for where otherwise prohibited. And that has to do with activities coordinating with a political party. Employees may not only have political opinions, but they are encouraged to express them.
MARINO: I know it well.
STRZOK: And publicly. So, sir, I don't draw any disagreement with you about bias where it occurs. What I disagree with you and so many people today is that political belief does not equate the bias and you always have to go to the evidence. If you can demonstrate evidence of acts of bias, well then bias is there. But in the absence of any and truly the inspector general of this committee and any number of people have looked and looked and looked and not a single act tells me it didn't occur. Because really competent people have looked for it. So, beyond me telling you under oath that I know it didn't happen. What's important to realize is it's not just me. It's this entirety of folks looking at it. It is the entirety of structure of the FBI who's built not to do those things and not to allow in other --
GOWDY: The time of the gentleman have expired. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois, Miss Kelly for five minutes.
REP. ROBIN KELLY (D), ILLINOIS: I know it's been a long day for you, so I will keep it simple. Some questions will be repetitive. But if you can just say yes or no. In your time at the FBI have you ever investigated a member of the Democratic Party?
KELLY: Did any of those investigation resulted in an indictment?
STRZOK: No, not to my recollection.
KELLY: Have you ever investigated anyone that identifies as independent or unaffiliated with either of the two major political parties?
STRZOK: Ma'am, I don't know.
KELLY: So, you don't know if any of those resulted in --
STRZOK: I don't know that -- I know when I'm thinking of the Democratic Party, clearly, Secretary Clinton was part of who we looked at and she was very clearly part of the Democratic Party. I don't tend to beyond that. I am not a public corruption agent and political affiliation is not something that we looked at.
KELLY: But in your assessment would your work history suggest a bias by you towards anyone political party?
[15:40:00] STRZOK: No, not at you will
KELLY: You investigated, as you said, Secretary Clinton for a use of private e-mails.
KELLY: She is a member of the Democratic Party.
KELLY: We know you have investigated a Republican, provided your participation in the ongoing Mueller investigation. And we know that that investigation has led to an indictment. In fact, it has led to 19 indictments, five guilty pleas and a host of charges filed against former campaign and White House advisers to President Trump, as well as Russian nationals and companies. So, is it fair to say that you have investigated and indicted individuals from the political spectrum or you may not be aware.
STRZOK: Yes, ma'am, we don't look at that. So, I don't know, but it's a fair assumption.
KELLY: There have been news reports that President Trump's advisers, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, former White House official, Steven Bannon, Reince Preibus and Gary Cohen, all used private e-mails to conduct official business. President Trump is a Republican. Correct?
KELLY: So, these individuals where are key staffers for a Republican president. Correct?
KELLY: These individuals serve or served as senior advisors to the President, White House chief strategists, White House Chief of Staff and Director of the national economic council. It is safe to say that individuals in such high-ranking positions are exposed to sensitive perhaps top street materials.
KELLY: To your knowledge has the FBI opened investigations against their use of private e-mails for official White House business?
STRZOK: I'm going to answer that -- I can't answer that based on if they are ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about it.
KELLY: OK. I would like to know that neither the House Judiciary Committee, nor the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have open hearings on that issue. And several of those individual's names continue to advise the president of the United States and receive a paycheck paid by our tax dollars. Also, I'd like to say when constituents call my office, they are Dems, they are Republicans, they're independence and they're not involved like all of us. And if you ask them, I am sure that they would say they received topnotch services from my office and I have my biases like everybody else like we've talked about.
In listening to the conversation today, I have to wonder about some of my Republican colleagues, not everybody. But since you apparently think that biases preventing people from doing their best job. It makes me wonder what happens when Democrats call your office. Do you not give them the same service as you give your Republican constituents because that's what you keep on implying over and over and over and over? I yield back.
GOWDY: The chair recognizes the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Sandford for five minutes.
Rep. Mark Sanford, South Carolina: I appreciate Mr. Chairman. And if I might I'm going to yield my time to my colleague from Ohio.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Thank you, gentlemen, for yielding. Agent Strzok, I want to go back to this e-mail you sent on January 10th regarding the BuzzFeed pending publishing of the dossier. You have that in front of you again?
STRZOK: I do.
J: OK. My last round of questioning, you said you spoke with Bruce Ohr several times in the 2016 and 2017 time period, is that accurate? STRZOK: That's correct
J: OK. And at the time you are working with Mr. Ohr, did you know that he was meeting with representatives from Fusion including Glenn Simpson?
STRZOK: May I consult with counsel, sir.
J: You sure can. You can hold my time, please.
STRZOK: Sir, again, I would like to answer your question. And it's a short easily answerable question. But at the direction of the FBI I couldn't discuss the content of the operational matters that that's at the store.
J: I appreciate that. At the time you were meeting with Bruce Ohr, did you know that his wife Nellie works for Fusion?
STRZOK: Again, I believe the same answer, standby, sir, again, please. Sorry about the time.
[15:45:00] Sir, again I'm sorry. I would like to answer that question. But at the direction of the FBI because it relates to an ongoing operational matter I can't.
J: Let's go back to the e-mail. I just want to make sure I understand this. It sounds like in your e-mail you're saying comparing now, sounds like there are three copies but two different versions. The set you're examining and referencing to your colleagues, you say it is identical of what McCain had in referring to the dossier. And then you're saying the one from Corn and Simpson -- you won't tell me who those individuals are -- but that one is different. Is that an accurate reading of your e-mail?
STRZOK: Sir, it isn't. And I think to give you the context of that comment, I would have to tell you sir, this is more frustrating for me than it is for you. Because of to frame that -- to give you an accurate answer, I have to give you the context of what was going on which includes details that I have been instructed by the FBI that I may not provide.
J: Well, there's another e-mail down below on the one that you are looking at. Which talks about BuzzFeed has 16 of the reports. It looks like they have 16 of the I believe 17 sections that made up the entire dossier, is that an accurate reading there?
STRZOK: Sir, again it's not an accurate reading. I would tell you what the FBI has told me what I may say in answer to the dossier is that --
J: It's not an accurate reading, that's what it says. BuzzFeed has 16 of the reports.
STRZOK: Sir, that is a literal reading but understanding what that means, it would require know provide information that is beyond the scope of what the FBI's permitted me to tell you. J: Well, we'd sure like to know. I want to refer you to -- I don't
know if you have this in front of you -- but this is the House Intelligence Committee's report, chapter 6, there is a footnote on page 113. And it says this, in late March 2017, Daniel Jones met with the FBI regarding PQG, the Pend Quarter Group, which he described as exposing foreign relations -- foreign influence in Western elections. He told the FBI that PQG was being funded by 7 to 10 wealthy donors located primarily in New York and California who provided approximately $50 million. He further stated that PQG had secured the services of Steel, his associate, and Fusion GPS to continue exposing the potential Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Are you familiar with this meeting Mr. Jones had with the FBI?
STRZOK: I am not, and I don't know if that's accurate or not. But I am not aware.
J: I am going from the intelligence report that the the majority issued from the House intelligence committee.
S:I am not aware of that meeting or who that is.
J: Have you spoke with Daniel Jones?
J: Do you know Mr. Jones at all?
STRZOK: I do not.
J: All right. I want to go back to -- one more question I asked you the first round, Mr. Strzok. Mr. Simpson when he did testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee was asked about Fusion, no one from Fusion ever spoke with the FBI. Is there any way that that contradicts what's in the e-mail that I've been referencing with you?
STRZOK: I don't know. I can tell you I have not spoken to Mr. Simpson.
J: Not spoken to Mr. Simpson. I haven't asked you that. I asked you that the first time. All right, I thank the chairman and think the gentleman from South Carolina, for yielding. I go back to the gentleman.
GOWDY: The chair would note that several of the questions asked by the gentleman were not answered by the witness on the advice of his counsel. And I assume through the FBI. And we will note those questions so that we can address them at a future time because I find it stunning that they are not allowing you to answer those questions Mr. Strzok. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Gutierrez for five minutes.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The chairman started this hearing by saying I wish this hearing wasn't necessary. Sorry if I don't believe that. Of course, he wants this hearing and it isn't necessary. And I think there are hearings that are necessary. And we see them every day. There are 3,000 children separated from their moms and dads and the government doesn't know where their moms and dads are and can't bring them together. That seems like something that the judicial committee should be investigating. We start a policy in this country where we ban, ban Muslims from coming in and we make a test, a religious test. Sounds to me something that the judiciary committee should take up.
We have a president of the United States -- there are 16 women who have come forward to say that the President of the United States has attacked them. And what does this committee do? No hearings.
[15:50:00] Even one of the members of this committee had to resign in disgrace because he asked one of his staffers for a million dollars if she would carry a baby for him. Do we have any hearings on the state and the plight of women in the workplace in America? No. These are all things and issues that are on the American people's minds. We don't want to talk about those issues. Those should be issues that I believe are pertinent and should have hearings before this committee. But what we want to have hearings is to bring Mr. Strzok here so that we can regurgitate and continue to say that he is lying and that he is biased and somehow, he corrupted the investigation to the point that we can't believe Mr. Mueller, that we can't believe Mr. Rosenstein. That we can't believe the new FBI director who was appointed by the current President of the United States and that we should abandon.
My members on the other side, if there are two people that are thrilled and excited today, there are two people, the folks over at Fox News and at the Kremlin because they both worked on one thing, electing President Trump President of the United States of America. They've got to be overjoyed today at the Kremlin and they've got to be applauding. And the news reel tonight because a lot of this today is simply what? Auditioning for Fox News and of course, at the clapping at the Kremlin. I never thought I would see a time that the Congress of the United States would do the work of destroying. Because what do we know? We know very clearly that our men and women of the intelligence community have unanimously stated, and this is unrefutable, that the Russians worked to undermine our democracy and to elect Donald Trump President of the United States and that is something that's irrefutable. You can say what you want about Mr. Strzok, that's irrefutable. And yet we do not investigate that. How could we have such an attack on our democracy? And we don't investigate. And we want to investigate Mr. Strzok.
So, I want to ask you, Mr. Strzok, because they kept saying you have this bias. When did you learn and how did you learn about the investigation into the possible collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian influence in our 2016 election?
STRZOK: Sir, I'm limited to what Director Comey was authorized to say by the Department of Justice, but in late July.
GUTIERREZ: So, in late July. And when did the public learn about the investigation into Russian collusion and Donald Trump's investigation?
STRZOK: I don't remember a specific date, but it was well into the following year.
GUTIERREZ: It was after the election.
STRZOK: Yes, sir.
GUTIERREZ: So, what we are to believe from our Republican majority that you're so biased, you're such a Democrat that you can't hold back from trying to destroy Donald Trump. Yet you never told anybody that there was an investigation into Donald Trump's campaign and collusion with the Russians? You never told anybody about that?
STRZOK: No, sir.
GUTIERREZ: You never talk to reporter about that?
GUTIERREZ: But you had it in your hands or maybe you didn't you know, in America you can do almost anything. But you did have almost a magical bullet in your hand to derail the Donald Trump investigation and did you use it?
STRZOK: No, sir.
GUTIERREZ: No, you didn't. Right? Are there Republicans that work at the FBI? Because it makes it sound like you are all Democrats. I never heard that before. But are there Republicans?
STRZOK: Yes, sir.
GUTIERREZ: OK. It would be interesting here is since you like to cherry pick the Democrats that give money -- the FBI agents that give money to Democrats, why don't you reveal the Republican members of the FBI that give money to Republicans? Why don't you reveal the Republican members of the FBI that are in and state very clearly when they apply have a voter registration they apply as Republicans? They don't because that is not what this is about. What this is about is for the American public, Mr. Strzok. It's really not about you. They want to damage and destroy our democracy. And one of the ways they do it is by taking an institution like the FBI and destroying it. That I think is really regrettable. OK, Kremlin, another good day for you. You influenced the election. You wanted Donald Trump to win. You won that one and now you want to destroy our institutions. Congratulations, Kremlin and congratulations to everybody that is helping them.
The gentleman from Illinois yields back to the gentleman from Tennessee, Scott DesJarlais is recognized.
SCOTT DESJARLAIS (R), TENNESSEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I just have a couple of questions for you, Mr. Strzok, and I would like to yield the balance of my time to Chairman Gowdy. But in light of the last round of questioning it is fair to say that you wanted to stop President Trump from being elected in your own words, did you?
STRZOK: No, sir. That was my expression that I had a preference not for candidate Trump to be president. But that I did not and would not -- DESJARLAIS: Did I not hear you read your text directly that you would
stop him? He would stop it?
STRZOK: No, sir. You misunderstood or misheard me. I said that my sense of not recalling -- right in that text -- is that the American populace wouldn't elect --
[15:55:00] DESJARLAIS: You don't like Donald Trump, do you?
STRZOK: Fair to say, I'm not a fan, sir.
DESJARLAIS: Yes. And were you the only one who could have done the job you're joining, are you the only one who could have led this investigation in the FBI?
STRZOK: Sir, it was logical given that I was number two in counter intelligence that I would have a role in this investigation but no there are very qualified folks in the FBI. DAD's there are not that many.
DESJARLAIS: So, in retrospect then should you have recused yourself in this case?
STRZOK: Absolutely not, sir.
DESJARLAIS: You don't like this man. You didn't want him to become President. You had several very disparaging text messages with your friend about this. But yet you didn't once think that maybe somebody else should take the case?
STRZOK: No, sir, and I tell you what, there are times that I didn't particularly care for Secretary Clinton and I investigated that absolutely as objectively and aggressively. I think recusing is the all narrative.
DESJARLAIS: OK, that's the one thing I've struggle with here today listening to your testimony. Because I do think a man in your position and power and the respect you should have or that people should have for you because of your position in the FBI that you would have stopped to think that maybe there was somebody that could have done a better job that didn't have such disdain for this President. You claim to be such a patriot but once he was elected you continued to do this. And I think that you have to accept that elections have consequences. But I will yield the balance of my time to our chairman.
GOWDY: The gentleman yields. Agent Strzok now I am confused because I thought on that August 8, 2016 text that you did not recall typing it. And then you said that you recalled it was late at night and that somehow mitigated the content of what you typed. So, do you recall it? Or was it late at night? And what else do you recall about the timing of that?
STRZOK: Mr. Chairman, I think my recollection statements have been consistent across the board. I don't remember typing it. It was late at night. My sense was I can tell you what it was not. It was not a suggestion that I or the FBI take any action. GOWDY: I tell you what, instead of us musing about what you meant why
don't we go with what you said.
STRZOK: I would rather go with what I did because that is at the end of the day that is --
GOWDY: We'll get to that in a second, I promise you. No, no, he's not. We'll stop it. And I think you've agreed that it was his candidacy. Right? Or his election?
STRZOK: I don't think again, not recalling writing it, his candidacy, his election I don't recall writing it. And I'm not sure what it means.
GOWDY: What did you mean by stop?
STRZOK: Stop it again, my sense looking at the context was that was no way coming off the heels of insulting the Kahn family that the American and all the other statements that had been made and the comparison of a generable size during the debate and everything else, that there was no way that the American population was going to elect this man. So, my sense was this was an off the cuff, hey don't worry about it, sort of comment. And if you look at the next day when I sent a text saying what was that? It's clear, there is no conspiracy. There is no meeting of the minds. There is no suggestion of actions. It was merely a one-off comment.
GOWDY: And of course, there is about a week before you use the word we again in connection with an insurance policy to make sure that he was not elected President. And then we get to the day Mueller was appointed special counsel, the day after. Let's go through this one again and see if it rings a bell with you. Who gives a f, one more A.D. and investigation leading to impeachment with a question mark. Why are you talking about impeachment the day of special counsel's appointment? While you are thinking about that, let me give you other options you could have said. An investigation leading into indictments against Russians. An investigation leading to better election security. An investigation leading into a robust response to what Russia tried to do to our country. But you didn't say any of that, agent Strzok. You went straight to impeachment. Do you know how impeachment works?
STRZOK: I have a general understanding.
GOWDY: How does it work?
STRZOK: Sir, my understanding is limited to that is something done by the Congress that there are articles of impeachment and the procedure by which that occurs I'm not an expert on.
GOWDY: Well, let me ask you this, do you have to be a sitting office holder to be impeached?
STRZOK: Sir, I don't know the answer to that.
GOWDY: Well, I actually do. And I will take note that you never once used the word in connection with Secretary Clinton, did you?
STRZOK: Sir, I did not, no.
GOWDY: No, you didn't. If you did, we don't have it. So that's an investigation where you didn't think about mentioning it, but the day Mueller was appointed rather than punishing Russia or rather than indicting Russians, rather than doing something about social media you went straight to impeachment.
STRZOK: Wrong. That's incorrect, sir.
GOWDY: Well, I tell you what. I'm out of time. And will revisit the issue.
STRZOK: May I respond to your question, sir?
GOWDY: You may when we revisit the issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, the witnesses permitted to answer the question.