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 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 GowdyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Democrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner Democrats seize on Mueller-Barr friction 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 GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling 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 will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE during the 2016 campaign.

He was also an investigator in the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE's private email server.

Updated at 11:54 a.m.