House committees subpoena FBI agent Strzok to testify in public

House committees subpoena FBI agent Strzok to testify in public
© Greg Nash

Two powerful House committees issued a subpoena for FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok to testify publicly at a joint hearing slated for next week.

It was not immediately clear whether Strzok will comply with the order issued by the Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The committees issued their subpoena for 10 a.m. on July 10.

In a letter to the Judiciary panel earlier this week, Strzok's lawyer accused the committee of selectively leaking portions of a closed-door interview Strzok provided last week and called the standing invitation to testify publicly a "trap."

"Having sharpened their knives behind closed doors, the committee would now like to drag back Special Agent Strzok and have him testify in public — a request that we originally made and the committee denied," Aitan Goelman said, according to CNN. "What's being asked of Special Agent Strzok is to participate in what anyone can recognize as a trap."

Strzok has been a target for House Republicans ever since a series of text messages critical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE that he sent during the 2016 presidential race became public.

Lawmakers grilled Strzok for 11 hours last week, a grueling session during which Strzok defended himself from allegations of bias. He also characterized the text messages as private remarks exchanged in the course of an intimate relationship.

Strzok told investigators that he regretted the messages to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair.

House lawmakers in the room said he repeatedly denied showing political favoritism to former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' 10 things we learned from Peter Strzok's congressional testimony Get ready for summit with no agenda and calculated risks MORE over Trump in 2016, a time when the FBI was juggling investigations related to both presidential candidates.

Following last week's interview, House conservatives suggested that they had learned new information connected to the FBI’s handling of investigations during the 2016 election. They provided no evidence or specifics to substantiate their claims.

Democrats who attended the session described it as a partisan witch hunt intended to dig up possible ammunition to use against special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia probe. Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinTrump’s arms export rules will undermine US security and risk human rights abuses Live coverage: FBI agent defends anti-Trump texts in tense hearing House committees subpoena FBI agent Strzok to testify in public MORE (D-Md.) called it a “monumental waste of time,” and Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog won’t drop Pruitt probes | Exxon leaves conservative advocacy group | Lawmakers offer changes to Endangered Species Act House Dem amendment seeks to ensure Pruitt probes are completed Dems struggle with unity amid leadership tensions MORE (D-Va.) called it a “farce.”

Earlier this week Goelman accused the committee of "playing political games [and] violating our trust and its own rules."

He wrote that "it no longer makes sense for us to keep playing along" and that Strzok "is willing to testify again, and he is willing to testify publicly."

"He might even be willing to testify publicly before this committee," Goelman wrote. "But not under conditions that are so obviously designed to embarrass and a trap an honorable man who has spent 25 years serving his country in the military and in law enforcement."

Strzok, who was escorted from the FBI in what is believed to be a precursor to dismissal, is at the center of what Trump and his congressional allies see as a conspiracy within the Department of Justice to undermine his candidacy. They say Strzok’s texts with Page are clear evidence of anti-Trump bias, and they argue this may have influenced the FBI’s probes, given Strzok's central role in both the Clinton and Russia investigations.

A 500-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz heavily criticized Strzok, finding that he displayed a “biased state of mind” during a critical phase of the Clinton investigation, but that no decision made during the course of the probe was a result of bias or improper influence.

In perhaps the most explosive revelation in the report, Strzok told Page “We’ll stop it” after being asked, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

Mueller removed Strzok from his team when Horowitz alerted him about the texts with Page.