Ed’s already covered the juiciest parts from this morning’s melee in the House but don’t miss the clip below, in which Strzok kinda sorta hints that Gowdy and Goodlatte are unwitting Russian stooges by grilling him about FBI bias. Tough call for the Resistance now: Will the 2020 ticket be Avenatti/Strzok or Strzok/Avenatti?
The appearance of impropriety in his texts, especially his “we’ll stop it” text, is so egregious that he should have been canned months ago. But he’s within his rights to argue that no actual impropriety has been found, nor will it be found. The best the IG could do in the Emailgate report last month was surmise that *maybe* Strzok had zeroed in on Russiagate in October 2016 rather than chasing down the new lead in Emailgate because he was hoping to find dirt on Trump that would blow up his campaign.
But Strzok made a fair point to try to rebut that in this morning’s hearing:
“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok said in the statement.
Strzok added that in 2016 he had information that “had the potential to derail and quite possibly defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”
Remember Harry Reid’s letter to Comey in late October 2016? That’s gotten lost in the historical shuffle a bit amid the Democratic uproar over Comey’s decision to announce the reopening of the Emailgate probe at the time. Reid was outraged about that announcement too, but not for the reason usually given that the FBI shouldn’t be updating the public on the status of an investigation. Reid’s gripe was that he knew the FBI was also investigating Trump in relation to Russia at the time but that the agency refused to say anything about it publicly, quite in contrast to their sporadic updates about the Hillary probe. There were reasons for the double standard: Russiagate was a counterintelligence probe, not a criminal probe like Emailgate, and there was no precedent as there was in Hillary’s case in which Comey had already informed the public that the investigation was closed, thereby requiring an update when it was reopened.
The point, though, is that the FBI was sitting on a potential electoral bombshell, the fact that there was an active investigation into the Trump campaign involving possible collusion with Russia. Peter Strzok knew all about it. Yet, when newspapers went sniffing around to get the details, what were they told? No big deal. There’s an investigation, sure, but nothing to suggest any impropriety. It was a nothingburger. And so the question arises: If Strzok was out to get Trump and tilt the election to Clinton, why didn’t he just hand everything the Bureau had on Russiagate to the New York Times a week before the election? If he was dead set on stopping Trump, why didn’t he go even further and lie to the Times by claiming that the FBI had something big pointing to direct cooperation between Putin and Trump? Given his stature in the agency, they might well have published it. Trump might well have lost. But Strzok kept his mouth shut. Why?
I didn’t catch much of this morning’s hearing, so tell me, did he elaborate on his point that grilling him is another victory for Putin? It occurs to me that he could have fairly easily turned Goodlatte’s and Gowdy’s logic about his impropriety around on them. Like I said in the Gohmert post, surely it’s the case that Republicans on the panel have privately said complimentary things about President Trump and/or critical things about Bob Mueller over the past year. Does saying those things mean they can’t be trusted to conduct this oversight hearing fairly? If they can be trusted to carry out their legal duties impartially despite their own political biases, why doesn’t Strzok get the same benefit of the doubt?