WASHINGTON — FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok told a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees today that a text to his then-lover, FBI attorney Lisa Page, about stopping candidate Donald Trump was anger expressed in response to Trump verbally going after Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
The Khans spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention to challenge Trump on comments he made on the campaign trail about restricting the entrance of Muslims into the country. Their son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Baqubah, Iraq, on June 8, 2004, as he stopped a suicide bomber from driving into a compound.
In August 2016, Page texted Strzok, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” The Justice Department’s inspector general determined that while texts between the two were inappropriate, investigators “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.”
“I think it’s important when you look at those texts that you understand the context in which they were made and the things that were going on across America,” Strzok told the committee. “In terms of the text ‘we will stop it,’ you need to understand that was written late at night, off the cuff and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero, and my presumption based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect someone demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States.”
“It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process, for any candidate.”
Strzok said he took “great offense” at suggestions to the contrary.
The agent also called Trump an “idiot” in an August 2015 message and texted “God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0” after a March 2016 GOP debate.
“As to the 100 million to one, that was clearly a statement made in jest and using hyperbole; I of course recognize that millions of Americans were likely to vote for candidate Trump. I acknowledge that is absolutely their right, that is what makes our democracy such a vibrant process that it is. But to suggest somehow that we can parse down the words of shorthand, textual conversations like they’re some contract for a car is simply not consistent with my or most people’s use of text messaging,” Strzok said, his voice rising.
“I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time, in any of those texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn’t just me sitting here telling you. You don’t have to take my word for it,” he continued. “At every step, at every investigative decision there are multiple layers of people above me, the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director, and director of the FBI, and multiple layers of people below me: section chiefs, supervisors, units chiefs, case agents and analysts, all of whom were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate improper behavior in them. That is who we are as the FBI.”
After Rep. Gowdy says “I don’t appreciate having an FBI with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016,” FBI agent Strzok passionately defends himself and the FBI, drawing applause from chamber during House hearing https://t.co/ILnFPnjvfI pic.twitter.com/3sNFQeaBt9
— CNN (@CNN) July 12, 2018
Strzok said he regretted the “confusion” and “pain” the disclosure of his text messages caused to his loved ones and to the Bureau.
“Certain private messages of mine have provided ammunition for misguided attacks on the FBI, an institution I love deeply and have served proudly for over 20 years,” he said. “Like many people, I had an expressed personal political opinions during an extraordinary presidential election. Opinions that were not always expressed in terms I am proud of.”
Strzok added that “having worked in national security for two decades and proudly served in the US Army those opinions were expressed out of deep patriotism and an unyielding belief in our great American democracy.”
“At times my criticism was blunt, but despite how it has been characterized it was not limited to one person or one party,” he said.