Strzok hearing devolves into partisan fighting after FBI agent declines to answer questions on Russia probe

Peter Strzok's hearing before Capitol Hill on Thursday quickly devolved into rancorous partisan bickering after the controversial FBI agent declined to answer questions about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia investigation.

Strzok declined to answer the first question from Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, about how many people he interviewed in the first week of the federal Russia probe — on the instructions of the FBI general counsel. 

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"Based on that, I will not answer that question because it goes to matters related to the ongoing investigation," Strzok told lawmakers. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers Republicans ready to grill Bruce Ohr as Trump-DOJ feud escalates MORE (R-Va.), who was overseeing the hearing, almost immediately stepped in, threatening contempt proceedings: "Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question."

Strzok disputed the notion that he was there under subpoena, arguing that he appeared before the committees voluntarily. 

"You have not stated a valid legal basis for not responding to a question from a member of the House of Representatives," Goodlatte replied.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tried to step in with "point of order" interjections repeatedly, stating that Republicans know he is not able to answer questions about an ongoing federal probe.

Goodlatte, however, batted down his objections as "not valid" and "not well taken." 

Democrats continued to raise objections to Goodlatte, whose refusal to entertain them drew outraged disbelief and laughter from the other side. 

"The chairman is not being proper," Nadler said of Goodlatte.

"The chairman is being proper," Goodlatte replied.

An exchange between Gowdy and Strzok also became heated.

Strzok claimed Gowdy had twisted his words upon answering a question about Mueller’s decision to remove him from the team overseeing the probe into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential race, stating that he did not “appreciate” what he originally said being “changed.”

"I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strozk," Gowdy replied. “I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”

Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, exchanged text messages critical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE during the 2016 campaign.

He was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Hillary Clinton urges Americans to 'check and reject' Trump's 'authoritarian tendencies' by voting in midterms EXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency MORE's private email server.

Updated at 11:54 a.m.