National Security

Strzok’s lawyer demands House panel release interview transcript, accuses GOP lawmakers of partisan leaks

The lawyer for FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok is calling on the House Judiciary Committee to release the transcript from his recent closed-door testimony before the panel, claiming Republican lawmakers are disseminating false information about his interview.

“Pete, more than anyone, wants full transparency around the examination of his work,” Strzok’s attorney, Aitan Goelman, said in a statement late Thursday.

{mosads}”We ask again that the Committee release the full, unclassified transcript instead of leaking selective excerpts designed to further a partisan agenda,” Goelman continued.

Strzok has faced a barrage of attacks from President Trump and conservatives after an internal investigation revealed he had been sending messages critical of the then-Republican candidate during the 2016 presidential race to FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

The Judiciary Committee, teeming with some of the fiercest critics of the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ), grilled Strzok for a grueling 11-hours on Wednesday.

His voluntary testimony came one day before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the top DOJ official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, joined FBI Director Christopher Wray in testifying before the committee on FBI and DOJ decisionmaking during the 2016 election.

Rosenstein’s appearance proved to be an opportunity for GOP lawmakers to press the No. 2 DOJ official about his knowledge of Strzok’s conduct, a move that was met with opposition from Strzok’s attorney.

“Yesterday’s testimony by Special Agent Pete Strzok was followed by more politically motivated attacks by President Trump and others. While the Committee chose to hold its hearing behind closed doors and deemed the transcript ‘confidential,’ it’s clear that information (some of which is demonstrably false) is being disclosed by Republican Congressmen in open meetings and shared with the President and his allies,” according to the email accompanying Goelman’s statement.

Democrats also claimed that Republicans were taking Strzok’s words out of context.

“Release the transcript, Mr. Chairman,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif) said Thursday, interrupting a GOP colleague who had brought up details from Strzok’s testimony. “The American people deserve to hear Peter Strzok’s testimony under oath. Do not hide his testimony.”

Despite their pleas, Republicans proceeded to pull details from Strzok’s testimony into the public hearing with Rosenstein, after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) ruled that lawmakers were free to use contents from the agent’s testimony in their questioning.

Some GOP lawmakers used Rosenstein’s appearance as an opportunity to demand additional answers, appearing unsatisfied with the responses they received from Strzok or his attorney’s decision not to answer certain questions during the FBI official’s lengthy appearance on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Trump ally and one of the fiercest DOJ critics, pressed Rosenstein on why Strzok declined to answer whether he had communicated with Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that helped compile the controversial “Steele dossier” containing unverified and scandalous allegations about Trump.

“As a principled FBI agent, Pete abided by his legal responsibility to follow the instructions of the FBI counsel, who sought to avoid the disclosure of information related to the Russia investigation,” Goelman’s statement continues.

Conservative critics say Strzok’s texts with Page are clear evidence of anti-Trump bias, because the two worked on the Russia investigation. They argue this may have influenced the FBI’s probes, given Strzok’s central role in both the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State as well as the beginnings of Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Democrats as well as Goelman claim the attacks on Strzok are an attempt to undermine Mueller’s probe.

“It should come as no surprise that President Trump, who appears desperate to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation, is again viciously attacking Pete for playing by the rules,” the statement says.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz strongly faulted Strzok for his conduct earlier this month, saying he displayed a “biased state of mind” during a key phase of the investigation into Clinton. Horowitz, however, said his investigative team found no evidence that any decision made during the course of the investigation was a result of political bias or improper influence.

One of the most explosive revelations from Horowitz’s lengthy 500-page report was a text Strzok sent to Page in which he said they will “stop” Trump from becoming president.

Despite Strzok offering to come before the committee voluntarily, Goodlatte first issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify, before dropping it and accepting a closed-door, transcribed interview.

The feud between House Republicans and the Justice Department is likely to continue to escalate in the coming months, as congressional committees schedule more interviews with high-profile FBI and DOJ officials. 

According to a committee source, the Judiciary Committee plans to continue to question Strzok after the House returns from recess on July 9.

The Judiciary and the House Oversight and Government Reform committees are expected to hold a joint hearing with Strzok on July 10 and then interview Page on July 12, according to this source.

Tags Bob Goodlatte Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jim Jordan Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein
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