Democrats Obstruct Peter Strzok Hearing, Demand Steve Bannon Be Subpoenaed

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in June 2017

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in June 2017

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.

Strzok, who is testifying on Capitol Hill under subpoena, was faced with several heated exchanges during the day's questioning.

Gohmert railed against Strzok for the bias he showed in his text exchanges with Lisa Page, the FBI staffer he had an affair while they worked on the investigation into the Trump campaign.

In a raucous scene, Democrats objected to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's (R., Va.) attempts to get Strzok to answer a question by Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) about the Russian Federation investigation.

Strzok was asked if he ever thought of recusing himself from the investigation.

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.

Trump - who mocks Page and Strzok as the "FBI lovers" - blasted Page's decision not to appear Thursday in a tweet, lamenting the "corruption on the other side" and again calling out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do something about it. But Cummings asked: "Is there a rule for that Mr. Chairman?" Jerry Nadler of NY.

"The gentleman is not recognized", Goodlatte responded.

"And the chairman is not being proper!"

But some Democrats chose to go further than that and to make Strzok a martyr - or even a hero.

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Strzok argued that Mueller did not remove him from his team because of bias, but because of the perception the texts created. "The fact that you would accuse me otherwise, the fact that you would question whether or not that was the sort of look I would engage with in a family member who I have acknowledged hurting, goes more to a discussion about your character and what you stand for and what is going inside you". "If you want to represent what you said accurately I am happy to answer that question, but I don't appreciate what was originally said being changed".

At one point, Strzok said he didn't appreciate an assertion from Gowdy, who retorted, "I don't give a damn what you appreciate".

The inspector general found no evidence that investigative decisions were affected by the political bias of Page, Strzok or others at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but issued a report that was nevertheless harshly critical of their conduct, saying the texts exhibited a willingness to take official action to prevent Trump from becoming president.

"This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump", Strzok said.

As you know, Strzok was one of the key agents involved in investigating Russian interference, and in 2017 he was assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Russia scandal. Her attorney confirmed to CNN she will be interviewed on Friday and she did not appear at Thursday's public hearing.

Democrats immediately challenged Goodlatte, accusing him of treating Strzok unfairly and seeking unsuccessfully to adjourn the hearing.

At the end of his monologue, Democrats in the committee chamber applauded.

Strzok has already spoken at length to the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors; Democrats have demanded - without success - that the Republican-controlled committee release the transcripts.

Meanwhile, across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort arrived at his new jail facility, as he awaits the first of two trials on charges of money laundering, illegal foreign lobbying and obstruction of justice.

But Goodlatte pushed back at the top of the hearing, defending his committee's investigation.

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