House Democrats charged Wednesday that the ongoing effort by Republicans to investigate FBI agent Peter Strzok, who has been criticized for his text messages disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump, is part of a “political charade” by Republicans.
“This investigation is a political charade — a platform to elevate far-right conspiracy theories and undermine the special counsel’s ongoing criminal investigation of the president and his campaign aides,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement Wednesday.
To prove it, Nadler and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, called for the release of the full and unclassified 11-hour closed-door interview of Strzok. The two lawmakers also released a handful of questions asked by House Republicans in last month’s testimony, which they say is an attempt to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
“Despite repeated promises by Republicans that they would not interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, they asked hundreds of questions during our recent interview of Peter Strzok demonstrating that their investigation has become exactly that — an attempt to obstruct special counsel Mueller’s work and act as President Trump’s defense counsel,” said Cummings, D-Md.
Strzok, who was heavily criticized in last month’s Justice Department inspector general report for anti-Trump, pro-Hillary Clinton messages and having bias, appeared last month to give a private testimony to the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees. He is slated to appear publicly before the two panels Thursday morning.
According to Nadler and Cummings, House Republicans asked more than 200 questions Mueller, whose investigation looks into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links with the Trump campaign.
Fewer than five questions were asked about Russia’s interference, the Democrats said.
Questions were asked about the FBI’s classified surveillance process and the FBI’s use of confidential informants. Trump has dubbed the use of confidential informants as “spygate” despite numerous lawmakers declaring that there is no evidence a spy was sent improperly to the Trump campaign.
Republicans also asked about former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who has been charged by Mueller, and Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump-Russia dossier.
“I don’t mean to embarrass you, but is Lisa Page someone that you do or at some point in time did love?” asked Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. “So what I’m trying to establish through all of that is, was Lisa Page someone that you cared about deeply at the time you were sending these messages?”
Strzok was having an extramarital affair with FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The two were part of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, and were also detailed to Mueller’s team before being removed due to the discovery of disparaging texts about Trump.
Page was subpoenaed to give private testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on Wednesday, but her lawyer said she would not appear — though is open to testifying later in the month. Strzok has been demoted within the FBI, and Page left the bureau earlier this month.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Page’s decision to defy the subpoena means she had something to hide.
According to Democrats, Goodlatte asked Strzok who he voted for in the presidential primary in 2016, and then asked: “And which party did you cast a vote in?”
“So it’s fair to say you were a Clinton supporter?” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC., asked Strzok.
Gowdy also asked Strzok about the application to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.