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 (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE's Russia investigation.

Strzok declined to answer the first question from Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview 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 TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE during the 2016 campaign.

He was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWill the Horowitz report split the baby? Gabbard commemorates John Lennon's passing by singing 'Imagine' Bannon: Clinton waiting to enter 2020 race and 'save the Democratic Party from Michael Bloomberg' MORE's private email server.

Updated at 11:54 a.m.