Sparks fly in Federal Bureau of Investigation agent's Trump testimony

U.S. President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Jonathan Ernst Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Strzok worked on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to the Trump campaign, until he was removed from Mueller's team past year. "This investigation is not politically motivated, it is not a witch hunt, it is not a hoax".

Strzok appeared before the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees Thursday, where he was grilled by lawmakers over anti-Trump text messages he sent to attorney Lisa Page.

"Mr. Gowdy, my understanding of why I was kicked off was that based on an understanding of those texts, and the perception that they might create-" Strzok responded. His texts with Page have come under heavy scrutiny following their release in the Justice Department Inspector General's report last month, including one in which he states "we'll stop it", in reference to a Trump election victory.

He said he was one of the few people during the 2016 election who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with people in the Trump orbit, and that that information could have derailed Trump's election chances. "But", he said, "the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind".

The hearing immediately got off to a contentious start Thursday, with Republicans slamming Strzok and Democrats warning their colleagues not to interfere with Mueller's investigation. "Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!" tweeted Donald Trump, taking a break from dynamiting the Atlantic alliance in advance of his upcoming canoodle with V. V. Putin. But then it kept that investigation completely secret from the public, lest news of it affect the outcome of the investigation in any way.

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In his most direct defense of the controversial texts, Strzok said he had written them "off-the-cuff" and that it was important to view them in the context of the heated election in 2016, during which Trump engaged in numerous outrageous, racially-charged feuds - including with the family of Muslim U.S. Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston said Gowdy was "assuming" Strzok's position on an issue.

Strzok said he could not answer a question about the early stages of the FBI investigation into Russian intervention because the probe is still ongoing and FBI counsel had instructed him not to. Strzok says he never allowed personal opinions to taint his work. "At times my criticism was blunt, but despite how it has been characterized it was not limited to one person or one party".

Republicans promptly threatened to hold Strzok in contempt. Strzok then claimed he didn't have to answer the question because, despite being subpoenaed by the committee, he had previously said he would speak voluntarily. Unsurprisingly, the hearing quickly devolved into a circus, with members yelling at each other, overlapping points of order, and a general sense of chaos.

At one point, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked Strzok how many people he had interviewed for the Russian Federation probe between July 31 and August 8, 2016.

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"My presumption [was] based on that awful, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States, " he said.

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.

"If I could give you a Purple Heart I would. If you have a problem with this policy, you should take it up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation - not badger Mr. Strzok".

Page told investigators that she and Strzok were having an affair, according to a Justice Department Inspector General's report about the Clinton email investigation, and that they used their work devices to hide that from their spouses. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate it in them.

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