FBI agent Peter Strzok told members of Congress Thursday that their hearing to question him for his role in investigations related to the 2016 election helps Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In his opening statement, Strzok declared that his respect to Congress’s oversight role does not extend to their questioning of him, despite evidence of his bias in the form of text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page. He said the hearing plays into Putin’s hands, and he defended his and the FBI’s actions investigating Hillary Clinton’s email server and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"I am particularly proud of the work that I and many others did on the Clinton email investigation. Our charge was to investigate it competently, honestly, and independently, and that's exactly what happened," he said. "I'm also proud of our work on the Russian interference investigation."
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in June he was unable to say Strzok's decisions were "free from bias in light of his text messages."
Strzok said Russia’s action "constitutes a grave attack on our democracy" and has "been wildly successful" because Americans lack faith in their institutions. Such disturbing lack of faith in the FBI was on display in the hearing, he said.
"I have the utmost respect for Congress's oversight role, but I strongly believe today's hearing is just another victory notch in Putin's belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart," he said. "As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it's profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in."
He also said he would not be able to answer questions related to the ongoing Russia investigation, on which he previously worked. Special counsel Robert Mueller removed him from the investigation after it came to light he had sent text messages to Page insulting Trump and praising Clinton.
"Where the FBI has directed me not to answer, I will abide by the FBI's instructions, but let me be clear, this is not because I don't want to answer your questions," he said. "If I were permitted to answer, I would. And the answers would doubtless be disappointing to the questioners and undermine the conspiracy narrative being told about the Russia investigation."
Strzok faced a series of questions Thursday related to his conduct at the FBI, including his private messages calling for Trump to be impeached.