President Donald Trump said FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page were getting “cold feet” about their appearances before congressional investigators.
“I am on Air Force One flying to NATO and hear reports that the FBI lovers, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are getting cold feet on testifying about the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by 13 Angry Democrats and people that worked for Obama for 8 years. Total disgrace!” Trump said in a July 10 tweet.
I am on Air Force One flying to NATO and hear reports that the FBI lovers, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are getting cold feet on testifying about the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by 13 Angry Democrats and people that worked for Obama for 8 years. Total disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
Strzok and Page had an extramarital affair. The two exchanged thousands of text messages expressing a strong bias against then-candidate Trump and in favor of then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Strzok and Page played major roles in FBI investigations of both candidates during the 2016 presidential election.
Strzok and Page were subpoenaed by the House judiciary and oversight committees and are scheduled to testify this week. Strzok agreed to give a public testimony on July 12, while Page’s lawyer, Amy Jeffress, said a July 11 closed-door deposition is not yet finalized.
“We asked the Committee staff to explain the scope of the investigation and provide sufficient notice that would allow her to prepare, which are normal conditions for congressional committees, but these committees have not followed the normal process,” Jeffress said in a statement, Politico reported on July 9.
Strzok was the lead agent on both the probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work and the counterintelligence investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Page was the special counsel to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
In one of their conversations, Strzok vowed to “stop” Trump from becoming president. In another, the two discussed having an “insurance policy” in the “unlikely” event that Trump would win the election.
It was also Strzok who switched “grossly negligent,” a legal term with criminal ramifications, to “extremely careless” in the original draft of a speech given by then-FBI Director James Comey on July 5, 2016, exonerating Clinton from criminal responsibility for mishandling classified information.
After congressional investigators and the Justice Department’s inspector general (IG) uncovered the Strzok–Page texts, Strzok was demoted and posted to the FBI’s office of human resources. On June 15, a day after a blistering IG report on the Clinton investigation, Strzok was escorted out of FBI headquarters, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Strzok no longer had security clearance. Page quit the FBI in May.
Strzok’s messages were “not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, [implied] a willingness to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects,” the IG report stated. Still, the report couldn’t connect the bias with specific decisions made in the Clinton investigation.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office is looking into any influence Strzok’s political bias may have had on the launching of the Russia investigation, which is a separate report expected later this year.
Strzok was already grilled by lawmakers during a closed-door deposition on June 27.
“Strzok was smug, defiant, and laughed off a lot of questions,” a congressional source told Fox News after the testimony. Strzok did say he “regretted sending the texts,” another source said.
Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, later asked for the release of the transcript of the testimony.
“Fair play and decency dictate that the witness should have the same access to the materials that the committee grants itself,” Goelman stated in a letter to the House judiciary committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte, The Daily Caller reported.
Both Strzok and Page were part of the team of special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia probe. Page left the team in the summer of 2017, while Strzok was booted later that year, after the texts emerged.
The investigation has turned up evidence that Russia tried to influence the election, but not proof that this effort was coordinated with the Trump campaign.
Trump calls the investigation a “witch hunt” and the Mueller team “13 Angry Democrats,” because 13 of the 17 known team members are registered Democrats, The Daily Caller found.
Mueller himself has previously identified as a Republican and gained bipartisan praise for his solid track record as an FBI director and federal prosecutor.
Yet Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani slammed Mueller for failing to vet his team, and especially for allowing Strzok to join.
“Mueller hired, originally as a chief investigator, a man that has some kind of vicious bias against Donald Trump,” Giuliani said on ABC “This Week” on July 8. “Out of all the FBI agents, how you can select that guy is beyond possible.”
Of the remaining team members, most worked at the DOJ or FBI headquarters during the Obama administration and at least 11 of them made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates, mostly Obama and Clinton.
James Quarles III donated close to $40,000 to Democratic candidates, including Clinton and Obama, while Andrew Weissmann attended Clinton’s election night party and gave $10,000 to Democratic candidates, including nearly $5,000 to Obama.
“[Mueller’s] got very, very severe partisans working on an investigation that should be done by people who are politically neutral,” Giuliani said.
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