House Judiciary chair: Bring me Peter Strzok

I can’t believe they haven’t subpoenaed him already. The two intelligence committees have been rotating in Russiagate principals to testify for months notwithstanding Mueller’s parallel investigation. Why hasn’t someone tried to haul Strzok and Lisa Page in before Judiciary to explain what the hell they were doing? We’ve known about some of their “problematic” texts for months. And remember, despite what Democrats might have you believe, objections to Strzok aren’t a partisan matter. It was Bob Mueller’s office that sent him packing last year from the Russiagate probe when they found out about his texting history. They knew how bad the appearance of impropriety was here and scrambled to rid themselves of it. The FBI hasn’t, for whatever strange reason.

Anyway, it’s time:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte started the clock Friday on a procedure to subpoena Peter Strzok, the FBI agent accused by an internal Justice Department watchdog of harboring intense bias against President Donald Trump…

Two sources briefed on subpoena effort indicated that Goodlatte has formally notified his Democratic counterparts of his intent to subpoena Strzok, a step that launches a two-day waiting period before he can officially issue the subpoena, under committee procedures…

The DOJ investigation found that while Strzok’s bias against Trump harmed the FBI’s appearance of neutrality, there was no evidence that his political leanings actually altered the decisions made in the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

That last sentence is technically true but grossly misleading. The IG’s office found no smoking gun that Strzok’s contempt for Trump affected his decisionmaking on Emailgate but it speculated that Strzok’s reluctance to see Clinton lose led him to drag his feet on investigating Anthony Weiner’s laptop for new Hillary emails in the home stretch of the campaign. (Which may have cinched her defeat, ironically, by delaying Comey’s eventual disclosure about reopening the probe until the final 10 days of the campaign.) The IG suspects, but can’t prove, that Strzok’s partisanship did influence how he did his job. It’s a disaster for the Bureau’s credibility, particularly coming in such a highly politicized case.

The fact that Strzok hasn’t appeared yet before Judiciary isn’t the strangest question related to him today. Devin Nunes wondered last night how it can be that some of Strzok’s texts, including and especially the “we’ll stop it” one, weren’t turned over to the House Intel Committee as part of previous document demands made to the DOJ. The answer presumably is that the DOJ distrusts Nunes and his committee and knew that the “we’ll stop it” text would leak immediately, triggering a new political firestorm and maybe even giving Trump a pretext to shut down the Russiagate probe. But all of that is beside the point: The Department works for the people and the people in this case are represented by Nunes and his committee, for better or worse. When the committee demands documents, they should be produced immediately. Why wasn’t Strzok’s text?

All of which is to say, Strzok isn’t the only DOJ employee who needs to be subpoenaed here to provide answers. And he probably won’t be.

If you missed it last night, carve out a little time for this joint interview with Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy. Gowdy’s spent the last few months defending Mueller and to a lesser extent the DOJ from Trump’s “witch hunt” attacks. But he is *hot* here about the Strzok text, recognizing how ruinous the appearance of impropriety is to perceptions of the FBI’s and DOJ’s integrity. Key quote: “God only knows what damage he was done before Mueller fired him. This is what’s so pervasive about bias, Bret, it doesn’t matter what Mueller comes up with. Some people are going to believe that Strzok’s level of animus was so high that you can’t remove the taint.” Whether Strzok actually tried to bring down Trump or not, Trump now has a golden bit of evidence to support his “witch hunt” claims that he can cite if Mueller ends up making any adverse findings against the president. Punishing POTUS for crimes alleged by Mueller was always going to be politically difficult for Congress with the public divided. With the new taint from Strzok’s bias, it’s probably now impossible.