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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
FBI Agent Who Sent Anti-Trump Texts Grilled By Lawmakers. Aired 7-8pm ET
Aired July 12, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:04] REP. STEVE RUSSELL (R), OKLAHOMA: The powers of government are drawn from the people's consent. The executive branch draws its law enforcement powers not only from that consent, but most importantly from the trust to wield such power without prejudice and with integrity.
Mr. Chairman, we heard a lot about ethics, patriotism and service today. We are all accountable for our actions. I am mindful of the words of Christ in Luke, "You shall know a tree by its fruit, from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." And I yield back my time to you, Mr. Chairman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks gentleman. And the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Biggs, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. ANDY BIGGS (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Strzok, you've worked as a criminal investigator for at least 20 years, is that correct?
PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT WHO SENT ANTI-TRUMP TEXTS: National security investigator, primarily C.I. work. Within the bureau (ph), we differentiate criminal which is --
BIGGS: But you're -- you did -- you're familiar with criminal investigations, right?
STRZOK: Yes, sir.
BIGGS: And you understand that as you're aggregating evidence, you're looking for a couple areas. Number one, you're looking to see if there's an act. The act is raise (ph) of a crime, right?
BIGGS: You're also looking for couple of mental state (ph) of a crime, right?
BIGGS: You have to demonstrate the couple mental state if you going to bring a case forward, right, intentional, knowingly, reckless, et cetera, right?
STRZOK: Almost always, yes. BIGGS: Yes, unless there's something strict liability, right. And you would agree that short of some statement against interest, most of the time the culpable mental state are either intentional or knowingly, that's usually done through circumstantial evidence, correct?
STRZOK: I hesitate to generalize. I would --
BIGGS: Trust me, it is. It is. Because short of someone making a statement against interest, you've got to prove that the intended not only the -- every element of the offense, right, or knowingly did that offense. That has to be proved. And often times by circumstantial evidence, which by the way, there's a jury instruction typically that goes forward that says there's no qualitative difference between circumstantial evidence and direct evidence. You would agree with that statement, right?
STRZOK: Sir, I'm not an attorney. I wouldn't --
BIGGS: Well, you've been in court many times, right? You sure sound like an attorney sometimes, right?
STRZOK: Very educated recitations of legal terms that I don't have the education to --
BIGGS: OK. Well, trust me on that. There's a jury instruction that says --
STRZOK: If you are representing to me that's accurate, I will accept that.
BIGGS: Right. And then this morning, you said -- and this has been a theme and I don't know how many times you said it, but I wrote down the one quote you gave to Chairman Goodlatte. You said, quote, my text messages are not indicative of bias, quote/unquote. Do you still hold to that position?
STRZOK: I do.
BIGGS: OK. Now, as we go forward here, when the FBI is trying to put together circumstantial evidence of a culpable mental state, they're looking at things such as text messages. They're looking at things such as communications between people for whatever reason, right? You would agree with that?
STRZOK: I would, yes.
BIGGS: And so, that indicates someone's mental state, that you are going to take before a jury, where you're going to say, beyond a reasonable doubt we can demonstrate either intentional or knowing by this serious, this cumulation of circumstantial evidence, right?
STRZOK: Rephrase the question, please, sir. I'm not --
BIGGS: OK. This is not hard. So when you're trying to prove culpable mental state, most of it's coming from circumstantial evidence, very real unless you got a confession, right?
BIGGS: And so you're taking a cumulation of various pieces of evidence and you're saying, look, this adds up to intentional or knowingly, right?
BIGGS: So, one of the things that's been made evident here is that your statements and your communications with Ms. Page, it wasn't a one-off. It wasn't two, it wasn't three. This is a whole series. It's a whole series that goes on not for a day or a week. This goes on for a long period of time. Is that not true?
STRZOK: It is true.
BIGGS: Yes. And so when people begin to say, was there bias on the part of Peter Strzok, they're not saying oh, gee, just on August 8. They're going through a whole cumulation and aggregation of various statements that you made. And that Ms. Page made, as well. So that leads us to the I.G.'s statement.
So when the Inspector General comes in, and I said him the question, I said, look, you've said regarding Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, you didn't find documentary testimony, evidence that they had improper considerations, including political bias directly affecting. I said, that's directly affecting, because they -- you said they weren't the sole decision makers. I said did they indirectly affect it? You said, yes.
[19:05:05] Why? Because he said you were the lead investigator. The lead investigator of the Hillary Clinton. You were the liaison, if you will. You were the flow of information from the investigative team that you've said there's lots of -- I can actually sketched kind of a Venn diagram, how this works, organization chart as works, as you were describing it earlier today. You were the gate keeper of information.
Lisa Page was providing counsel to Andrew McCabe. On the Russian investigation, you were the head guy. You're the head guy. Now we have a cumulation of biased information that indicates some kind of mental state of bias. And at the other end of this, you're the head guy on these. That's what the Inspector General said. Under oath, in testimony, not too many weeks ago.
STRZOK: Sir, Mr. Chairman, if I may respond.
BIGGS: There's no question before you.
STRZOK: I want to correct some inaccurate things you said.
BIGGS: I didn't say anything inaccurate. There's --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The witness needs to be able answer the question. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're out of order.
STRZOK: Mr. Chairman, when aspersions are cast on the witness --
BIGGS: There's no aspersions cast.
STRZOK: There were, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone will suspend, and the time of the gentleman has expired. And the Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Grothman, for five minutes.
BIGGS: Sir, may I respond to the gentleman who just spoke?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you may not. The gentleman from Wisconsin has the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, you have said throughout this hearing that at the conclusion of the questioning, the witness would be permitted to respond. That will now change?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there's no question directed to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not true, Mr. Chairman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he has a response. He'd like to give to the committee. You said throughout the day that was the procedure. Now, you're claiming it --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is completely out of order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Mr. Chairman, you're out of order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The time belongs to the gentleman from Wisconsin, and he may proceed.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Mr. Chairman, you indicated, you must remember that --
LEE: I beg of you to allow the gentleman at the end of this long hearing to be able to explain conflicts in representation that have been made by various persons on the panel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Wisconsin may proceed.
REP. GLENN GROTHMAN (R), WISCONSIN: Well, it seems to me that on advice of counsel, a lot of the things we want to find out here today we're not going to find out. But I'd like to focus a little bit on the milieu in which you operate in the FBI. When I look at this area around Washington, D.C., I look in -- we had a candidate run for President to ran on the promise to drain the swamp.
When I look at the election result in the areas in which you and other people work for the government around here live, I see almost monolithic mind-set that can be illustrated in the election results in the area, things that -- given the country as a whole is almost half for the candidate that wanted to drain the swamp and half for the candidate who didn't. You look at the District of Columbia, 4% for Donald Trump. Prince George County, 8%, Arlington, Virginia, 17%, Alexandria, 18%. I mean, things that -- in Wisconsin, 72 counties, and normally, we're about a 50-50 state. There's not one county in which you have that -- everybody voting together.
So I want to dig into a little bit about the milieu in which you hang around with. Now, at the time where Mr. McCabe, who I believe was Ms. Page's boss, at the time his wife ran for Congress, or was maybe as a state elected position, you referred to people who lived in the county just beyond Washington, D.C. A little bit more normal, still a Democratic county. You referred to them as this county, Loudoun County as being gentrified, but it's still largely ignorant hillbillies.
I don't mean to embarrass you in that because it doesn't surprise me that people in this swamp would refer to people, once you get a couple of hours away from Washington, as ignorant hillbillies. It wouldn't surprise me if someone was -- it invert me got ahold of e-mails and people were saying that at the newsroom in MSNBC. It wouldn't surprise me if they were saying it in the Department of Interior, the Department of Education. It disappoints me a little bit that they were saying it in the FBI.
But I'm going to ask you, in the areas which people you congregate in your business, you obviously talked about politics. How many people did you run into say in the Washington office here who are overtly supporting President Trump?
STRZOK: When you say in the office, sir, a couple of things, and you may not have been here this morning. I certainly -- I do not view the people of Loudoun County as ignorant hillbillies. I live in adjacent county and much like in Wisconsin, you might look folks in Minnesota where the --
[19:10:09] GROTHMAN: I'm a people like you.
STRZOK: I regret that statement. And I --
GROTHMAN: I know you regret.
STRZOK: But -- When you say the office, sir, I don't understand what you mean by around the office.
GROTHMAN: People you work with on a daily basis.
STRZOK: I don't tend to know who they support, sir.
GROTHMAN: Well, it's apparent in the e-mails that you exchanged with Ms. Page. But not only with regard to her opinions, but obviously that McCabe's were very political in nature, you must have some general opinions of the politics that it'd be work around. You were not shy about sharing your political opinions.
STRZOK: Right. My sense is that the FBI, including me, is a very conservative typically organization. They believe in law and order. They believe in a strong national defense.
GROTHMAN: I'm going to say --
STRZOK: I'm sorry, sir?
GROTHMAN: In the areas which I've worked in the past prior to getting involved in politics, I can almost always tell you where I have an opinion, where people come down on these issues. You are not shy about talking about politics. I want to know in the social circles that you hang around with, including at work, maybe you get at home, do you ever run into people who would have voted for President Trump, people you know?
GROTHMAN: Would you guess in the FBI -- like I said, we rattled off the percentage of people voting for President Trump in the surrounding counties, looks like overall, maybe less than one in six, just amazing. Could you comment again on your comment largely ignorant hillbillies? And there a lot of people think like you in this swamp, OK. It's not unusually. Probably a lot of lobbyists probably feel that way. Congressional staffers.
Could you comment in general on the political viewpoint of the people who work in the Washington office with you?
STRZOK: The general perspective as I just said, sir, the most FBI agents in my experience tend to be strongly conservative --
GROTHMAN: Kind of outside --
STRZOK: In Washington, D.C. Strongly conservative, strongly law and order, strongly national defense, up until the current date, very strongly Republican. I don't know -- I couldn't tell you what people did or didn't vote for this election because we don't attempt to talk about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some other time. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Gomez, for five minutes.
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Strzok, you've been on the hot seat for a number of hours. I just wanted to give you an -- first, thank you for being here and thank you for trying to answer the questions to the best of your ability. But I wanted to give you at least 45 seconds to respond to any of the comments that have been made that you feel like you haven't been given the opportunity to respond to.
STRZOK: Sir, I appreciate that. And one thing I -- two things. One, with regard to the I.G. and what they found, to be clear, the I.G. report found no active bias by me or anybody in the FBI, period. And he said in his testimony, my understanding is the same. Two, the I.G. found, and stated in the report that I was the most aggressive people in pursuing the Hillary Clinton investigation, going after Secretary Clinton.
So those facts are indisputable. They're written down. And there's no two ways to try and spin out of those. And I don't want to take your time, and so I'll try to some 15 seconds. The insurance policy text that has come up before, that text represented a debate on information that we had received from an extraordinarily sensitive source and method and that typically when something is that sensitive, if you take action on it, you put it at risk. And so there's a tension there.
Maybe we should -- you are just roll slow, take a typically three-year or four-year county intelligence investigation. Because the more aggressive you are, the more you put it at risk. And some people said that. Some people said, hey, look, every poll is saying candidate Trump is likely not to win. Every Republican was saying that.
Some people said as a result of that, let's not risk this source. Let's go slow. What I had advocated for. What I'm saying is, look, we're the FBI. We need to do our job. We need to go investigate.
While it isn't likely according to all the pollsters and everybody that candidate Trump is elected, we need to make sure we are protecting America. We need to responsibly and aggressively investigate these accusations because you know what? If candidate Trump is elected, there might be people we need to be investigating that might be nominated for important national security positions. Everybody in America would want to know that. Candidate Trump would want to know that.
So much like that you probably won't die before your 40 --
GOMEZ: No, thank you --
STRZOK: That's the meaning, sir.
GOMEZ: No, thank you so much. I got sworn in July 11, 2017. So I am one of the most fresh new members of Congress. It was about a year ago yesterday.
[19:15:10] And I was excited to be on the Oversight Committee, because I believe that Congress has a responsibility to be a check on the executive branch. But that's when it's being honest in its purpose, right? I don't believe our committees, led by the majority, has been honest in its purpose. Because if they had been, it would be treating requests by the minority with as much importance as they're owned. So I have a question, it's a rhetorical question. Why is it that the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee have refused to issue a single subpoena to compelled documents or witnesses from the Trump administration on any topic other than this one? It's because they don't believe and they don't care to discover the truth. They are using this process to throw more red meat to their base in order to turn it out for the midterms and to protect a president that has no moral authority to lead this country.
So it is kind of embarrassing. I've been watching this farce and this circus for the last five hours, and I wonder to myself, you know, what are people thinking that there's grown men and women shouting over each other, insulting one another. Yes, they try to dress it up by saying the gentleman from North Carolina, the gentle lady from California, but it's all a farce. And the American people know it.
You know, we've asked for subpoenas for a variety of issues. Commerce Department and the Census Bureau withholding documents on citizenship questions. Department of Justice withholding documents on request to add a citizenship question. Department of Justice withholding documents on politicized hiring allegations for immigration judges. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice withholding documents on gag orders against whistleblowers. White House withholding information on chartered flights.
The list goes on, there's about 12 of them but they have never issued a subpoena except on this. And the American people should ask why, why, why? And the reason is, because they're not interested in finding the truth, or making sure that we hold this administration accountable. It's all for tossing red meat to their base.
And you know what? We should never talk ill about anybody, you know, in any particular part of our country. But this President has lowered that standard. He questions immigrants, he questions the allegiance of judges, the FBI, and that in my opinion is insulting. And I think we need to grow up, and show that the American people that we're here to act as responsible branch of government. And I yield back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Rutherford, for five minutes.
REP. JOHN RUTHERFORD (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Strzok, when I hear you talk about your passion for America, I believe you. I can see that passion. When you talk about your love for the FBI, I see it. I believe it. When you talk about your faith in the American electorate, I believe that.
Now, what concerns me is you said that you didn't trust the elections, the quote you -- you didn't trust the elections after Russia put their finger on the scale. Remember saying that earlier?
STRZOK: That, I don't believe that's exactly what I said, sir. I think I said something slightly different, but I recall that exchange.
RUTHERFORD: Well -- But that was your -- that was the meaning, right? STRZOK: I don't think that was the meaning, sir. The meaning was I was very concerned that Russia was attempting to do that. I have prayed --
RUTHERFORD: You specifically said Russia had put their fingers on the scale.
STRZOK: I don't recall what I said specifically.
RUTHERFORD: You can find it later, but I wrote it down.
STRZOK: OK, (INAUDIBLE) itself.
RUTHERFORD: And what I want to ask you is, do you think that justifies then you, Mr. McCabe, and Lisa Page, to correct that wrong that you perceived was done by the FBI?
STRZOK: That never happened and that would not happen.
RUTHERFORD: Let me ask you, the I.G.'s report that I have right here, you said political bias did not impact your professional actions. You said that earlier in this meeting, as well. Let me give you a little background. In a text message sent on August 15th, and this has been discussed earlier, you wrote to Lisa Page, I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy's office that there is no way he gets elected. But I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40.
[19:20:15] STRZOK: Yes, sir.
RUTHERFORD: You certainly remember that. You heard it a lot. Was there anyone else in that meeting?
STRZOK: I'm sure there was. I don't remember who.
RUTHERFORD: So you don't remember who all was --
STRZOK: There were an inordinate number of meetings for the government. We had meetings. I don't remember for this particular meeting who was there. I could look at my notes --
RUTHERFORD: At least two of those people that were in that meeting with you are no longer working for the FBI, are they?
STRZOK: I don't know that Mr. McCabe was there.
RUTHERFORD: Do you know that Mr. McCabe was in the office?
STRZOK: He was in the office. My recollection of that meeting is that we had had a briefing to the director. Sometimes after briefings like that, the director will stay behind with his very senior staff like the general counsel and the deputy. And if we have other matters to discuss that don't merit the importance of the director's time, we'll go down to the deputy's office and wait for him to return. So, he may have been there, he may not have been there. I don't recall.
RUTHERFORD: But Mr. McCabe is no longer working at the FBI, is that correct?
STRZOK: That is correct.
RUTHERFORD: How about Lisa Page?
STRZOK: She is not.
RUTHERFORD: Anybody else who was in that meeting that you recall that no longer works with the FBI?
STRZOK: Possibly Mr. Baker. But I don't know if he's in the meeting or not.
RUTHERFORD: OK. Let me ask --
STRZOK: That's it. Possibly I don't think Mr. Baker went on another.
RUTHERFORD: OK. Let me ask, did you present the original FISA application?
STRZOK: No. Sir, when -- I assume you're talking about the FISA application on Carter page that have been limited to build (ph) it and answer your question.
STRZOK: I did not.
RUTHERFORD: Were you in the courtroom?
RUTHERFORD: OK. And do you -- and there were three renewals, correct?
STRZOK: Sir, I'm not certain I can discuss that without divulging classified information and I don't know that I've been given clearance by the FBI to discuss that.
RUTHERFORD: OK. Well Mr. Rosenstein was here and admitted that he signed the third renewal.
STRZOK: I certainly defer to his statement, sir.
RUTHERFORD: But he signed that third renewal, but amazingly to me, Mr. Strzok, apparently because of the information that was in that renewal, he would not admit that he actually read the document. Do you know of any falsehood, any half truths, any misinformation that was in that third renewal that would preclude him from being able to say he red it, assigned it and approved it?
STRZOK: I have no information about the deputy attorney and what he did or didn't do or why he did or did not do anything.
RUTHERFORD: OK. You've said that political bias didn't affect your work, but the FBI and DOJ were both admonished for misconduct in the prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens, right?
STRZOK: Sir, I was not involved in that investigation. I don't know.
RUTHERFORD: OK, Well, the former director --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired. The witness can answer the question.
RUTHERFORD: OK. You know that they're undergoing training right now for political bias at the FBI, is that correct?
STRZOK: I understand that that was a recommendation in the I.G. report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time has expired. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Alabama, Mr. Palmer for five minutes.
REP. GARY PALMER (R), ALABAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Strzok, despite your assertions that the I.G. report did not in any way indicate bias, I would disagree with that. But also on page 424 of the Inspector General's report, he said that we therefore refer this information to the FBI for its handling and consideration of whether the messages sent by the five employees, of whom you're one, place it above, violates the FBI's office code of conduct. Are you under review by the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility?
STRZOK: Yes, sir.
PALMER: Thank you. In January of 2014, the Inspector General for the intelligence community, Mr. Charles McCullough, sent out a letter and indicated that he had received two sworn declarations from one intelligence community element. These declarations cover several dozens e-mails containing classified information determined by the intelligence community element to be at the confidential secret and top secret special access program levels which was -- were you aware of this letter?
STRZOK: What was the date of the letter?
PALMER: In January 14th, 2016.
STRZOK: I don't recall it now, but I may have known it at the time. Correspondence like that to read. We had a team of anywhere from 20 to 60 people, so --
[19:25:07] PALMER: Well this is -- I understand that you can't know everything, and I get it. And I also want you to understand, and I'm not going to be necessarily in attack mode, because I want to get some answers.
PALMER: And this is a very, very serious problem that's raised by this letter, whether it's confidential, secret, top secret. But certainly a special access program. You're former military, correct?
STRZOK: Yes, sir.
PALMER: You can understand then the danger that this could pose for our men and women in harm's way.
STRZOK: Yes, sir.
PALMER: OK. This was January. And then -- and again, on March 4th, you sent a text saying that Hillary should win 100 million to nothing. In May 4th, that's when you said, you know, the pressure really starts to finish with your evaluation. At what point in there was the memo changed from gross negligence to extremely careless. It was in May.
STRZOK: Sir, I'm not going to be able to give you a --
PALMER: I'm not asking for a date.
STRZOK: I can't give you a break on of what occurred before --
PALMER: And I understand you've been here a long time and so have we, but it was in May.
PALMER: And what it appears here -- and it's in the context of the need to finish midyear investigation is that Donald Trump had just won the primary. It was obvious that he was going to be the Republican nominee. And I believe you when you say you're a patriot. I believe that you care deeply about the country and I can see how you and some of your colleagues concluded that it's in the best interest to change it from gross negligence to extremely careless because you just couldn't comprehend a President Trump or, in your mind, the danger that that might --
STRZOK: That's how it happens, sir.
PALMER: Well, something happened to change this from gross negligence to extremely careless because it's extremely careless. It's not prosecutable.
STRZOK: I can tell you why it happened if you'd like me to answer, but I don't want to take your time if you don't.
PALMER: I know what the Inspector General said he thought happened. He said it was changed because it wasn't prosecutable, because it's not in the code. The espionage act doesn't have anything in the criteria for extremely careless.
So I think, again, you know, I kind of give you some credit for your patriotism and your desire to do what's best to the country. I mean, our history is replete with people who've made decisions that they thought were the right decisions at the time but they got outside the lines and the text messages and the fact that clearly there's a bias. And I get it. We all have biases. It's what we do with them. It's how we act on them, how we're able to compartmentalize these things that determine the course of things, really the course of history. And the few seconds here, I want to tell you that I appreciate the fact that you sought forgiveness from your family. I appreciate the fact that you realized that you have severely damaged the reputation of the FBI. And we're not here about the FBI, we're about here about you and what you did.
I literally sat here, and I mean this sincerely, and prayed for you and your family. Because that -- I can't imagine what your family is feeling, going through this. And I'm not going to question your integrity, but I will say this to you, and I hope this is constructive, I hope you take it as constructive. As I watched your body language, as I watched your facial expressions, it's almost as though you've enjoyed this. This is a competition for you. In many respects, even now.
And I don't think you're -- I'm not going to say your problem is a lack of integrity, I think it's a problem with hubris. And I think you need to take that into account in regard to how you handle this going forward, because it makes it more difficult for us to give you the benefit of the doubt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired.
PALMER: Mr. Chairman -- OK.
STRZOK: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman may briefly respond.
STRZOK: No, sir. I appreciate your prayers. Sir, I can tell you when you look at what happened in the investigation, everything was done by the book. And you can assure yourself and your constituents and everybody you're talking to, when you look at both investigations, notwithstanding, what decisions have made, high level to say something, not to say something. When you look at the investigation, what does men and women did, everything was done right and by the book. And I share your concerned about the nature of the classified information.
We found a bunch, T.S., special access program, confidential and secret. All that was found, all that was detained (ph) and direct to Comey's statements, so I appreciate it.
PALMER: In regard to that, I want you to understand nobody here --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman's time has expired.
LEE: Mr. Chairman, parliamentary inquiry --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman's time has expired.
LEE: -- relating to the rules of this hearing, parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He almost stated parliamentary inquiry.
LEE: The witness has attempted to answer the gentleman's question --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he was allowed to.
LEE: Mr. Chairman, just a moment, please?
On a question that's been asked over and over again about the gross mismanagement and negligence issue. And the witness was not allowed at that time to give the clarification. I think the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlewoman has not stated a parliamentary inquiry.
LEE: -- which was not written by the gentleman as I understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlewoman from Georgia, Ms. Handel, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Agent Strzok, for being here.
I have found your testimony today frankly to be quite remarkable in its disingenuousness. And you have shown a disturbing degree of denialism about your actions and the impact of those actions.
I think we would all agree that everyone does have personal viewpoints. That is very true. But, Agent Strzok, there is a very big difference between someone expressing his or her political views generally, and someone leading an FBI investigation, making highly negative and explosive comments about the actual target of that investigation.
Would you agree? That's a yes or no.
PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: Rephrase the question. I don't understand the --
HANDEL: You have an awesome talent for filibustering. You might want to think about running for the Senate.
I'll just say again, you were the lead investigator, one of the lead investigators, and you made highly negative and explosive comments about the actual target of an investigation. That is distinctly different from an individual expressing his or her political views. You are in a position that you need to be at a higher, much higher level of standard and you failed to reach that.
Your assertion that your statements do not constitute bias is -- well, absurd. The facts are this -- the FBI inspector general testified before this very body that you did, indeed, exhibit bias. And further in his report, he detailed numerous examples of investigative steps that were not, quote, by the book, as you just testified. What I also find stunning is someone in your role with the
responsibilities that you have engaged in such grossly unprofessionally, unacceptable, and unethical behavior. And now, truly ironic, did I hear you say you're in a senior position for the HR division for the FBI?
STRZOK: Yes, ma'am, currently --
HANDEL: That's very iconic. So, let me ask you this, you were in a supervisory role at the FBI. Suppose you found out that one of your direct report was sending the kind of text messages that you were sending about the target of an investigation that they were working on, what action would you take?
STRZOK: Ma'am, if they were sending personal opinion about a political matter, that's their business. I think given my experience to date, I would caution them against doing that on a government device. That is entirely separate and distinct from an individual that was under -- that was not a political candidate, that was not -- that did not have the protection attached to it.
HANDEL: Suppose that you found out a direct report was having an extramarital affair with a colleague or with someone outside of the bureau. What action would you take?
STRZOK: Ma'am, it depends. If it was in -- if it was against the FBI's regulation in terms of it was somebody in their chain of command, above or below them, which is inappropriate, or not allowed by regulations, I would tell them and report that. If it was otherwise permitted in our regulations, I would probably talk to them and say, hey, look, this is -- I'm aware of this and you need to be aware and just take into consideration what you're doing and the appearance of it.
HANDEL: So obviously, you understand the gravity of the transgressions, engaging in the kind of behavior that you've been engaging in, especially with the extramarital affair. It opens up an agent to exploitation and even blackmail. Given the fact that you hold a high left security clearance, did you ever discuss your relationship with Ms. Page with HR or anyone around your security clearance?
STRZOK: They were well aware of it -- well, they --
HANDEL: When did they become aware of it?
STRZOK: When it was kind of made very public by the media after some leaks late last year.
But, ma'am, I can tell you, the fact that your premise though that it makes it susceptible in blackmail, I never, never could have been blackmailed or coerced by the nature of that relationship. That is not -- the nature of my patriotism and the nature of what I believe in this country --
(CROSSTALK) HANDEL: When you're undergoing security clearance, you were asked a question about that. There's a reason that security clearance is asked those kinds of questions.
Did you ever advise Mr. Mueller of your relationship with Ms. Page?
STRZOK: I did not.
STRZOK: It didn't strike me as relevant.
[19:35:02] HANDEL: You have a lot to learn about human resources. I mean, wow.
It is absolutely relevant. There should have been conversations -- I find it interesting that there was no discussion that the two of you shouldn't both be together on that same investigation.
Mr. Strzok, no reasonable person could not be concerned about your actions in this investigation. No reasonable person could not be concerned about this situation involving yourself.
So, thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. DeSaulnier, for five minutes.
REP. MARK JAMES DESAULNIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you for your testimony and your service. It's been a long day. And I admire your resume.
I came from a similar background. I went to a Catholic high school and Catholic college. I remember going to Holy Cross and having people say, the graduates from Harvard and Yale make the laws, but the graduates from Holy Cross and Fordham enforce the laws. And we always took great pride in that because I think you as well. And having had friends who had served in the bureau, who took great pride in that education reinforced your ethical beliefs, in a difficult world where we all make mistakes and that's part of our humanity.
So, I admired your work. I must say I'm discouraged today to have listened to much of this hearing, on many levels. I'm discouraged because I consider many of the people on the other side of the aisle as friends, good friends. I must say this reminds me of what it must have been like to sit through the McCarthy hearings, waiting for that moment, at long last, that you have no shame. But maybe that's to come.
Having said that, I am troubled by the fact that someone in your background did what you did. But you and I both believe in redemption, so I think you have acted in that way today. I want to ask you just a comment and a question specifically for one
case. So, there's been a consistent conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and one of your former colleagues, John Giacalone, the executive director for the FBI's national security branch. He left the FBI because he was upset that there was a bias in the Clinton case, so the conspiracy theorists say and going, quote, sideways, or, quote, nowhere by design.
So he responds in testimony in front of our committee on June 21st, and said that these allegations were completely false, quote/unquote, nonsense. Quote, he said totally inaccurate. This is all nonsense. Almost the whole thing is nonsense.
I'd have to read it again to say that. But from what I recall, I didn't leave because I was disgruntled, I left because I was broke.
He continues, I loved every minute I spent in the FBI. I had one bad day in 25 years and that was on 9/11. And I think it was a bad day for a lot of people and for this country. So, there's no way I left because I was sideways or because I was disgruntled. It was purely the right time for me 25 years in right opportunity.
I never spoke to anybody, as to internet article, I don't know who they used it, the source of this thing.
He further said in explaining the Clinton case, from the outset, he said, quote, I fully recognized right at the gate that it was a political bombshell that we, meaning the FBI, were an apolitical organization. So I had the referral, we were going to open up the case and wait to put together a team and we were going to conduct a thorough, down the middle investigation, which is what we did, end quote.
And starting again in quotes, he said about Director Comey, he's a straight ahead guy. And you know if the evidence existed, he would have pushed it for prosecution. And then about you he said, quote, there was no indication that he exhibited any bias while he was conducting the investigation, while he was working for me. He went 110 miles an hour and we were always looking for new ways to uncover information and evidence. So, I had no indication that he even had -- would politically lean the way I guess some of these text messages show that he did lean.
At no point in time during my management of this case did he exhibit anything that would provide any slight indication of some of those things that were, you know, posted and put out to the media, end quotes.
Do you have any comments on your former colleague's comments, about what he said you go through?
STRZOK: I deeply appreciate them. Mr. Giacalone is an extraordinary agent with a heart of gold. And I appreciate them.
DESAULNIER: So just in closing, just curious, I really want to reiterate, you are a nonpartisan in your comments and criticisms, which I think is fair.
[19:40:01] My dad used to be a state superior court judge in Massachusetts. And I remember one of my siblings once active in politics put a bumper sticker on his car and he went ballistic. There was no question he was a committed Republican, but he was concerned about the perception.
So, sitting here today, after all these hours, is there any one thing that you can encapsulate what the bureau could learn from this experience to make sure no one would sit where you're sitting again?
STRZOK: Sir, there is. I deeply -- my belief is these texts should never be public, and whether reasonable or not, they were made public. And I deeply regret some of the appearance that they created, and all the way that manifest itself out, personally with regard to the bureau.
So, at the end of the day, we're judged on our actions. Certainly, you know what I do with regard to my personal matters is my own business, but I would also say I take some comfort that when I look at my actions in the workplace, that they are the proper, that they are correct, that they were done for the right reasons and done in the right way.
And so, whenever I get ups and downs in this experience, I look at that record of work, and it gives considerable comfort that it was done right and well. So --
DESAULNIER: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Rothfus, for five minutes.
REP. KEITH ROTHFUS (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Strzok, you were the lead investigator in the Clinton e-mail investigation. Were there ever any searches for e-mails with the clintonemail.com route on the data government warehouse that would have held data collected through 702 or other FISA authorities?
STRZOK: Sir, I would have to think about that. Rephrase the question, were there any searches of --
ROTHFUS: The I.G. report talks about servers that were searched and devices that were searched. Were there never searches done on the data warehouse system that would contain data collected pursuant to FISA or 702?
STRZOK: So, when you say data warehouse system, you're referring to any FBI data system that would house FISA or 702 data?
STRZOK: Yes, sir, I believe there were. ROTHFUS: There were. Do you know if anything was found on those?
STRZOK: No, I don't.
ROTHFUS: It's not reference in the I.G. report whether that was searched.
On page 96 of the I.G. report, it said that investigators learned late in their review that the FBI considered seeking access to certain highly classified materials that may have included information relevant to the mid-year investigation, but ultimately did not do so. Furthermore, unnamed FBI attorney one went so far as to say that review of those materials was necessary to complete midyear, and even started to draft a memo about it.
And per the I.G., you thought revealing those e-mails would have been a logical, investigative step. Who stopped it?
STRZOK: I don't know. It was levels above me. My understanding was it was outside the bureau that was stopped.
ROTHFUS: Did you object to that?
STRZOK: I disagreed. I wanted to search it. We're getting very close to classified information. So, I want to be very careful in --
ROTHFUS: Did you send an e-mail or a memo to that effect that you said we need to search this?
STRZOK: Sir, I don't recall the nature of what that discussion was. I remember talking about doing it and wanting to do it.
ROTHFUS: As a counterintel officer, did you know if any other non-DOJ government officials have reviewed the classified materials in question in this case?
STRZOK: I don't know.
ROTHFUS: Did any non-DOJ personnel communicate with anyone at the FBI or DOJ or to midyear personnel about this classified material?
STRZOK: Sir, I can't -- I can't answer that question without providing or --
ROTHFUS: Do you know if anybody on the midyear team, FBI or DOJ, ever briefed anyone at the White House about such classified material as a potential related to the midyear?
STRZOK: I don't know. I'm not aware of it. But I don't know.
ROTHFUS: Who had the most influence on midyear investigator's beliefs that this classified material was ultimately not necessary and were not have a material like that?
STRZOK: Sir, those are two different questions. There's an investigative question, which I the leader of the team, which included the senior investigators, had a desire to do something. And then there's a decision at a much higher level and a different organizational spot that was well above --
ROTHFUS: This was all happening in May of 2016. Was there a rush to wrap this up?
STRZOK: This was not all happening in May of '16.
ROTHFUS: Well, according to the I.G. report, this was all coming out in May of 2016.
STRZOK: Sir, there may have been aspects of the discussion in May of '16, but my recollection is that this was broader than that.
ROTHFUS: On page 96 of the I.G. report, it said investigators learned late in their review that the FBI considered seeking access to certainly highly classified materials.
[19:45:08] STRZOK: I think that's when the I.G. learned about it, sir, if I'm not mistaken in that reading. Sir, I don't remember specifically when this came up in the context of midyear. I could not tell you when I first became aware --
ROTHFUS: You were the lead investigator, right?
STRZOK: I was.
ROTHFUS: OK. During midyear exams, did investigators find any e- mails between Secretary Clinton and President Obama, including e-mails that would have used aliases?
STRZOK: Including emails --
ROTHFUS: -- emails that would have used aliases?
ROTHFUS: Did any of those emails contain classified information?
STRZOK: With President Obama?
ROTHFUS: Between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama.
STRZOK: I don't believe so, but I would have to verify that with the case counselor.
ROTHFUS: Do you know if any of those emails were ever intercepted by a foreign actor?
STRZOK: I don't know.
ROTHFUS: On page --
STRZOK: When you say any emails, sir, you're talking about emails between Secretary Clinton and President Obama? Or the emails contained classified?
ROTHFUS: No, between Secretary Clinton and President Obama.
STRZOK: I don't know.
ROTHFUS: On page 149 of the I.G. report, it noted they found evidence that you advocated for more aggressive tactics in the Clinton investigation like grand juries, subpoenas and search warrants. Ultimately, the midyear team decided to go with the kid glove approach, using consent agreements.
I can think of some high profile examples where federal agents did not use agreement. Relating to midyear, who specifically had the authority to decide not to use compulsory process to obtain evidence in this investigation?
STRZOK: Sir, I'm certain the I.G. did not use the phrase kid gloves. The decision ultimately about whether or not to issue process rest with the prosecutors. So --
ROTHFUS: Did anyone outside of the midyear team suggest to the team not to use an aggressive approach?
STRZOK: There was a constant debate which is normal and healthy between the agents and the attorneys about how aggressive to be. My recollection is that --
ROTHFUS: Anybody outside the midyear team. You're talking --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired. The witness may answer the question.
ROTHFUS: No. Not -- to my recollection, there's nobody outside the midyear team that was exerting any pressure one way or the other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Kentucky, Mr. Comer, for five minutes.
REP. JAMES COMER (R), KENTUCKY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Strzok, Hillary Clinton has said publicly that FBI Director James Comey cost her the election. Do you share Hillary Clinton's opinion?
STRZOK: Sir, I don't know. I've read a lot of pollsters and a lot of speculation, but I don't know.
COMER: It's an important question, because you think about Hillary Clinton making a statement like this about the FBI and the FBI director, as well as statements that President Trump has made about the FBI, and those are the two leaders of each party in the last presidential election. So, I think it does matter.
Out of curiosity, are there any recordings of the interviews of the Clinton email investigation? STRZOK: No, sir. I don't believe we recorded any interviews.
COMER: So, none of the interviews were recorded?
STRZOK: To the best of my recollection, sir, I'm not -- I would need to review the case file, but I don't believe anywhere.
COMER: Is that normal for an investigation of that size?
COMER: Mr. Strzok, did you consult with James Comey before he made the decision to go public, days before the presidential election, with the fact that the FBI was going to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails once it was determined that Anthony Weiner had access to the emails and potentially had access to classified information. Did you consult with James Comey before he made that decision?
STRZOK: I was present at meetings where that decision was discussed.
COMER: Do you think that was the right decision?
STRZOK: Sir, that's always a difficult question. I think for all of us, it was kind of a 50-49 proposition. I came out of that decision comfortable we're doing so.
COMER: Did Ms. Page consult with James Comey before he made the decision to go public?
STRZOK: I -- you'd have to ask her, sir. I don't know that she did.
COMER: We hope to get to ask her some questions.
Do you think that James Comey leaked out the -- let me back up, in a text message from you to Ms. Page, you mentioned insurance policy. That's been referenced many times today. What exactly did you mean by having an insurance policy in case, I would assume, President Trump won the election or was looking like he was going to win the election?
STRZOK: Sir, I appreciate that question because it has taken very much I understand ambiguous and that people have taken out of context.
The insurance policy was merely an analogy to -- you do something when something isn't likely to happen. You're probably not going to die before you're 40, but you have insurance policy any way. What we had before was an allegation that something significant, that members of the Trump campaign may have been working in cooperation with the Russians and some people were saying, hey, look, this sensitive source of information that's so sensitive, so vulnerable, we shouldn't put it in danger, because sometimes we go out and do aggressive investigation.
[19:50:00] If it's a drug snitch, or intelligence source, you can cause significant harm. And a lot of people look and said, hey, well, look, all the pollsters,
everybody in the world saying it's not likely President Trump is going to be elected. So, don't worry about it. We can let this lie.
I had a different view. I said, you know what, it doesn't matter whether or not he is going to be elected, we need to do our job. We're the FBI. We need to aggressively go out there and pursue the allegations because --
COMER: Let me ask you this.
STRZOK: But I want to finish --
COMER: You've answered the question.
Do you think that James Comey leaked out about the re-opening of the Hillary e-mail investigation because he needed a, quote, insurance policy to cover his back for predetermining that Hillary Clinton was innocent in the e-mail investigation before it ever even began?
STRZOK: I don't think Director Comey leaked anything with regard to -- that I'm aware of, with regard to the Clinton investigation. I certainly do not think he, I, or anybody else viewed any investigation or any step in the sense of what you're saying we need to do something to prevent any particular action at all.
COMER: With respect to the clear bias of Donald Trump in your text messages and your clear prejudice against the Trump voters -- and, by the way, I'm one of those smelly hillbillies from Appalachia, that you reference in your text, you were in a supervisory role at the FBI. What would you do if you found a text from a subordinate of yours that exhibited the same type of bias that you had towards a group of people that were key witnesses or key whatever to the investigation? How would you handle that scenario?
STRZOK: Sir, if I found a text from a subordinate expressing a political opinion, one, I don't think I'd see it, and, two, I'd think it was entirely appropriate. If your question is the text was about a target of an investigation, talking about the target, that's an entirely different matter and I'd bring that subordinate in and counsel him. But those are apples and oranges. They are not at all the same.
COMER: Well, I conclude my statement, Mr. Chairman. I believe that this is a bad day for the FBI. I believe that we have an overwhelming majority of quality FBI agents and intelligence agents all across the United States and all across the world. But it's unfortunate that when reading the inspector general's report and sitting here listening to your testimony, watching the reaction from some of your colleagues behind you with rolling their eyes and frowning faces, and, you know, it's just very discouraging as a member of Congress that we've tried this hard to get information.
The American people want to know. This Russia investigation has been going on for a long time. Many believe that it is a witch hunt. It needs to wrap up. But from what we've heard today, there are a lot of problems with your
credibility as the lead agent in the entire Russia investigation.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the gentlewoman from Texas, before we close, we will now be closing, does the gentle woman from Texas desire to make any closing remarks?
JACKSON: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your indulgence.
This has been a long day. First, let me thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agents that I worked with on my years of service on the Judiciary and Homeland Security, the aftermath of 9/11, which I had the lack of distinguished, if you will, distinguished position to be in the United States Congress, during 9/11, and certainly in the aftermath of the investigation. Let me thank the FBI, Mr. Strzok, for their service.
Let me quickly say this, and then conclude my remarks. I want it to be clear that General Flynn, in his offense, asked the Russian ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia. Following, a whistle-blower then said that he referred this to Mr. Flynn, that the sanctions would be quote ripped up to allow money to start flowing to one of Flynn's business projects.
Did you have anything to do with any comments by General Flynn?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not for asking questions, Ms. Jackson.
JACKSON: I will leave that on the record, Mr. Chairman. I thought it would be good to clarify it because I've asked others. But let me finish my remarks.
In the concluding comments, Mr. Strzok, again, I believe this hearing, in its long period of time, showed no bias in the decisions regarding the final report on Hillary Clinton's e-mails. She was vindicated. Nothing changes the Russian interference in our elections of 2016.
Unfortunately, no questions were asked by the Republicans about the Russian interference. The GOP, in many instances, would not let you, Mr. Strzok, answer the questions.
[19:55:05] Finally, the hearing did not give the American people, I think, the important answers that they needed, and that is how will we secure our elections in 2018? That unfortunately plays into Putin's hands. It also did not respond or did not answer, what do you do when White House officials have not gotten their own security clearance?
And finally, let me be very clear, when our country is attacked, I want to make sure the FBI and not the KGB shows up. We need to do a better job of answering the concerns of children snatched away from their parents, the violation of voting rights, the need end gun violence and many other issues. But today, you stood the test of time, at least you've admitted fault,
and certainly admitted that you would have wanted to do things in a better way, as I've gleaned from your testimony. But it cannot take away your service in the United States military, your service to the FBI and your willingness to offer, if you will, your deference and your concern about the continuation of the FBI in its service to this nation.
Mr. Chairman, I hope the judiciary committee and oversight chairman, I believe, is not present, but in any event, that we will take up the issues that the American people desire, and that we will solve problems, which are important to the democracy, security and the values of this nation.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.
REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: I thank the gentle woman. Many members on the other side of the aisle have attempted to denigrate this investigation, and in particular this hearing today. One going so far as to calling it stupid.
This investigation and hearing aren't just about reviewing the 2016 election, however, however important that is, this is a much bigger matter. Our investigation and this hearing goes to a larger global and existential issue of equality under the law.
So, for my Democratic colleagues to call this review stupid denigrates the importance of our founding principles and the core of a system of justice. I venture to guess that most Americans don't view equality under the law and fair and unbiased investigations as stupid.
Mr. Strzok, this has been a lengthy hearing, so thank you for your time today. It has been extraordinarily frustrating, though, in trying to get answers to many important questions. I understand that you have refused to answer many questions on advice of the FBI.
You've also said that you cannot answer questions on advice of counsel because they could disrupt the ongoing Mueller investigation. So, we are presented with a situation where you have not answered questions from congress under the cover of the FBI and special counsel Mueller. Neither the FBI nor the special counsel is mentioned in the Constitution, Congress is, and we have a constitutional right to have answers to the many questions that have been posed to you.
While you have consistently referred to the FBI as the ultimate arbiter who is preventing you from answering questions today, the FBI director reports to the deputy attorney general. The FBI is a component of the Department of Justice. So, at the end of the day, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Federal Bureau of Investigation and of the Mueller investigation is where the buck stops.
We now consider the department on the line, in addition to the FBI, for failing to permit you to answer questions that don't even go to the substance of any investigation, but have focused on your involvement in the process of those investigations. This is unacceptable. Congress has been blocked today from conducting its constitutional oversight duty and more importantly, the American people have not received answers on why our chief law enforcement agencies and agents and lawyers operating within them permitted improper bias to permeate through three of the most important investigations in our nation's history.
The Constitution's construct of congressional oversight over the executive branch has been severely undermined today. We will resist attempts to prevent us from getting to the facts. This is not over and you as well as future witnesses are on notice that fulsome answers are expected promptly.
With that, this hearing is adjourned.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte wrapping up quite a day, to say the least. For the last 10 hours, almost without interruption, all eyes and no shortage of heat have been focused on that hearing room and one individual. He's FBI agent Peter Strzok, pulled from the Russia investigation, as you know, last August over messages and emails he exchanged with then-FBI agent Lisa Page.