Criminal Justice

FBI agent who wrote anti-Trump texts calls attacks on him 'another victory notch in Putin's belt'

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FBI Agent Peter Strzok/C-SPAN.

An FBI agent in the crossfire over his texts criticizing then-candidate Donald Trump defended his work on the investigation of Russian election influence in an appearance before a congressional committee on Thursday.

FBI agent Peter Strzok said he criticized many political figures, including Hillary Clinton, and he is not proud of the terms he sometimes used in his messages to then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

But he said he wanted to clearly state “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 is a former U.S. Army officer who worked at the FBI for more than two decades.

The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times are among the publications that covered the hearing fireworks. At one point, Republicans threatened to cite Strzok for contempt when he refused to answer a question because it related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

Republicans have cited the texts to suggest Mueller’s probe of Russian influence was influenced by political bias. Strzok, however, criticized the people who are slamming him, and suggested the contretemps would please Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity,” Strzok said. “I have the utmost respect for Congress’ oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

In one of the text exchanges, Page had written: Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

Strzok responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok said the messages were exchanged after Trump insulted the family of a Muslim-American soldier who died while trying to stop a suicide bomber in Iraq. Strzok said his presumption was that the American public would not elect someone displaying such behavior.

Strzok had worked on both the probe of Russian influence and the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private server for email while secretary of state. The Russia investigation “is not politically motivated, it is not a witch hunt, it is not a hoax,” Strzok said.

Republicans have given Page a Friday deadline to testify and have threatened her with contempt if she does not appear. Page’s lawyers have said she can do so after the FBI allows her to review her notes and case files.

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