Highlights From The Strzok Hearing/Page Closed-Door Session Friday

The Full House Judiciary Committee Hearing can be viewed HERE. And if you weren’t able to catch the full day of testimony presented during the Strzok hearing on July 12th, here’s your Fulcrum summary version:

The first 90 minutes of Thursdays hearing was nothing short of explosive with Democrats conveniently running the clock down every chance they got, interrupting others set time, calling points of order, shutting down oversight and demanding recorded votes be taken before moving forward.

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When House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy began to question Strzok, only a few minutes into the hearing, Democrats erupted in objection. The question posed to Strzok by Gowdy was in regard to the number of witnesses that Strzok interviewed the during the time he was sending shameful and clearly biased text messages to his lover, Lisa Page.

Gowdy asked Strzok, “Between July 31st and August 8th, how many interviews did you conduct related to the alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign?” After turning to speak with his council, Strzok replied, “Congressman as you know, council for the FBI, based on the Special Council’s equities, has instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigations..((Gowdy interrupts to ask the question once again))...Congressman, I understand your question, I appreciate it, and I would very much like to answer, but as I’ve stated, as you know the council of the FBI, based on the Special Council’s equities, have instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigations into Russian attempts to interfere with the election.”

“This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference, and for every other investigation I’ve worked on,” he told the panel. “It is not who I am, and it is not something I would ever do. Period.”

Chairman Gowdy continues his line of questioning, asking Stzrok about Mueller letting him go, “If you were kicked off when he read the text, shouldn’t you have been kicked off when you wrote them?”

Strzok replied: “Not at all.”

Gowdy: “Well, it wasn’t the discovery of your text Mr. Strzok, it was the existence of your bias that got you kicked off.

Strzok: “No, Mr. Gowdy, it wasn’t. I do not have bias. My personal opinions in no havway ever impact..”

Gowdy: “Why did you get kicked off?”

Strzok: “Mr. Gowdy, my understanding of why I was kicked off was based on understanding of those text and the perception that they might create..”

Gowdy: “Hang on a second, Agent Strzok, hang on a second–perception? You’re saying it was the perception of thirteen Democrats on the Special Council Probe, including one who went to what he hoped was a victory party. That’s a perception problem too. They weren’t kicked off, you were. Why were you kicked off?… How long did you talk to him [Mueller] when he let you go?

Strzok: “My recollection is it was a short meeting somewhere between fifteen to thirty minutes, probably around fifteen minutes.”

Gowdy: “And it’s your testimony is Bob Mueller did not kick you off because of the content of your text, he kicked you off because some appearance that he was worried about?”

Strzok: “My testimony, what you asked, and what I responded to was that he kicked me off because of my bias. I am stating to you, it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias, that it was done based on the appearance. If you want to represent what you said accurately, I’m happy to answer that question, but I don’t appreciate what was originally said being changed.”

Gowdy: “I don’t give a damn what you appreciate Agent Strzok. I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”

After Strzok’s lengthy reply, the Democrats in the room did something that you don’t see often in settings such as these, they began to clap for Strzok. As if that wasn’t strange enough, what came after Strzok’s reply was even more stunning. A motion was called to subpoena Steve Bannon for his refusal to answer some of Chairman Gowdy’s questions while under subpoena--the motion was struck down and denied by Chairman Goodlatte.

Strzok’s reply: “In terms of the text that ‘We will stop it’, you need to understand that was written late at night, off the cuff, and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero. And my presumption based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be President of the United States. It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process-for any candidate. So, I take great offense and I take great disagreement to your assertion of what that was or wasn’t. As to the 100 million to 1 that was used clearly a statement made in jest, and using hyperbole, I of course recognize that millions of Americans were likely to vote for candidate Trump. I acknowledge that it is absolutely their right, that is what makes our democracy such a vibrant process that it is. But to suggest somehow that we can parse down the words of shorthand textual conversations like they’re some kind of a contract for a car, is simply not consistent with my or most people’s use of text messaging. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time, in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn’t just me sitting here telling you-you don’t have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there were multiple layers of people above me. The assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director and director of the FBI and multiple layers of people below me, section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents and analysts. All of whom were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would have tolerated in them. That is who we are as the FBI and the suggestion that I, in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI, would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn’t happen and the proposition that that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission and it is deeply destructive.

When Goodlatte called for a verbal vote to be tallied, the Democrats would have none of it and demanded a recorded vote be taken, so the clerk began to call the roll and recorded each member’s vote.

Rep. John Ratcliffe ( R- Texas) pressed Strzok about the 50,000 text messages on official FBI devices, where his bias seemed crystal clear, with Strzok sending and receiving hundreds of text messages each day:

“…F ‘ing Trump, stopping Trump and impeaching Trump-on official FBI phones, on official FBI time. Other than that, you never crossed that line. I’m sure there are 13,000 FBI agents out there that are beaming with pride at how clearly you’ve drawn that line. Agent Strzok are you starting to understand why some folks out there don’t believe a word you say, and why it is especially troubling that you, of all people are at the center of the three highest profile investigations in recent time that involve President Trump and that you were in charge of an investigation investigating, gathering evidence against Donald Trump-a subject that you hated, that you wanted to F-him, to Stop him, to impeach him. Do you see why that might call into question everything that you touched on all of those investigations? Chairman, I’m done with this witness.” Rep. Ratcliffe then walked out of the hearing, without waiting to hear Strzok’s response.

A recess was then called by Chairman Goodlatte until 2 p.m.

After returning from the short break, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa from California was given the opportunity to ask Strzok about the context of the texts sent out to his mistress Lisa Page. Issa asked a shocked Strzok to read some of the texts that were sent from his government issued phone aloud for everyone to hear. -Genius move on the part of Issa.

Strzok was clearly embarrassed,(as he should be) to have to read the messages sent to his mistress out loud for all to hear. He began with texts sent to page between March and August of 2016, including “OMG! He’s an idiot”, “Now the pressure really starts to finish MYE.”, ‘Hi how was Trump other than a douche. Melania?”, “Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be.”

When asked to read a text message from Strzok’s government issued phone specifically from August 6th, 2016, Strzok says, “I don’t believe I wrote this text sir.” Issa acknowledges it, but moves forward, “Ok, it’s been attributed to you, so we’ll go on to the next.”

Strzok continues reading the text messages and picks back up with one sent to Page on August 8th, 2016 where Page asks Strzok, “Not ever going to become president, right? Right?” Strzok reads his now infamous response to Page out loud, “No, no he’s not. We’ll stop it.” Issa immediately asks Strzok to repeat his reply to Page, which he does.

Strzok picks back up with a text from August 15, 2016: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…”

October 20th, 2016 “I can’t pull away…What the..and I defer to the chairman.., (chairman says to use one letter for the word)..What the F happened to our country Lis?”

When Issa asks him to repeat the text again “that way”, Strzok goes on the defensive and asks Issa, “I..sir, did you not--was that not intelligible? You just want to hear it? For me to repeat it?”

Issa responds, “Please.”

Strzok says, “Ok sir. Sure, I’m happy to indulge you.” Then he rereads the text message again. “I can’t pull away. What the F happened to our country Lis?”

Issa then asks a rhetorical question of Strzok, “Why in the world do you believe that this committee should not ask for the record of similar text from your private account to find out what else you might have said about ‘insurance policies’, or about the president of the United States, or the investigation? That is a rhetorical question. You need not answer, and I yield back.”

Strzok asks Chairman Goodlatte if he can answer the question, even though rhetorical, to which Goodlatte agrees.

Strzok: “Congressman, what I think is critical..and I’m glad you brought up a lot of these, because I would like to make up the point that I did earlier…”

Issa: “I didn’t bring them up, I just asked you to read your own words.”

Strzok: “I appreciate it, sir..if I…if I may, what is important is that these texts represent personal beliefs just like those that you’d find on my personal phone. What these texts do not represent is any act, any suggestion of an act, any consideration that we need to do this..or not do this-and furthermore, I would encourage you as I believe-I forget who I said this to earlier this morning-you need to read these texts in the context to what was going on at the time. So, when I make the comment about Trump having no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be, that came on the heels of a speech where then-candidate Trump said that he didn’t know whether or not the United States should honor its commitment to mutual defense under NATO.”

The next line of questioning came from Eleanor Norton, Democratic Congressman from Washington D.C.

She asks Strzok, “We’ve been reading from your personal phone and your official phone. Did it occur to you that your personal, political messages, if they became public might be misinterpreted in light of your role in the investigation?”

Strzok replies, “Congresswoman, to be very honest, I..I didn’t anticipate that because I never thought these text would become public.”--probably one of the very few honest answers we get from Strzok the entire hearing.

Norton goes on to ask about the phone that was used for the texts, “Some of them were not on your personal phone?” Strzok replies, “Correct, yes that’s correct.” Norton points out that since they were sent on his official phone that they belong to the public.

When it was time for Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee to ask Strzok questions, he decided instead to spend his 5 minutes of allotted time to empathize with Strzok, even telling him that if he had the ability to, he would issue Strzok a Purple Heart, telling Strzok, “You deserve one.” Cohen continued, “This has been an attack on you, and a way to attack Mr. Mueller and the investigation, that is to get at Russia Collusion involved in our election, which is what this committee should be looking at. A direct strike at democracy,” Cohen said. Cohen added that Mr. Putin was the president’s “very good friend, and a man he cannot say anything bad about?” Cohen closed his 5 minutes by partially quoting Jack Nicholson’s famous line from the movie A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth”, when referring to the investigation and said, “The truth is, this is the most corrupt administration ever and it’s going to be exposed by Robert Mueller, thank God.”

When Republican Congressman from Ohio, Jim Jordan tried to get some solid answers from Strzok about the dossier, he was given the same excuse that Strzok used earlier, that he was advised not to answer the question. 

Jordan: “You already told me that you read it, I want to know who Corn and Simpson are,” to which Strzok repeats he’s unable to answer the question.

Jordan: “I know what you’re saying, I know what you’re saying. Ok, let me ask you this, did you ever communicate with David Corn?

Stzrok said no, he had no communication with David Corn, Glen Simpson or Nellie Ohr, but he admitted he had been in communication with Bruce Ohr.

Jordan asked when he communicated with Bruce Ohr, to which Strzok answered, “My recollection is somewhere between three, four or five times in the late 2016, early 2017 time frame.” When asked what they talked about, again Strzok said he was not able to answer any further than they spoke about investigative matters.

Jordan asked one last question of Strzok: ” Glen Simpson testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22nd, 2017 he was asked: ‘Did anyone from Fusion ever communicate with the FBI, his response, ‘No, no one from Fusion ever spoke to the FBI.’ So here’s what I’m having trouble understanding, if Glen Simpson says no one ever spoke with the FBI, how is it you got a copy of the dossier from Simpson?”

Strzok: “Sir, I can tell you I never had contact with Fusion, with Mr. Simpson, with Mr. Corn.”

INTERRUPTION ENSUES

Jordan: “This is the frustration that every single member of this committee feels,is when Agent Strzok won’t answer, well more importantly, the American people feel Agent Strzok won’t answer fundamental questions like-the guy he references in an email, Corn and Simpson, and won’t tell me who they are…this is unbelievable, but that’s where it’s gotten to now and it’s as frustrating as it can get. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”

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Trey Gowdy tries again to get answers to his earlier question about the dates of July 31st and August 6th of 2016, but again, Strzok said he was unable to answer the question and would have to refer back to his case file in order to give Gowdy the answer he was looking for.

During this period, the Democrats interrupted three times to ask why Gowdy was being allowed to ask Strzok questions during “their time” and even asked Goodlatte if he simply made up rules as he went along. Goodlatte clarified that this was in fact, not “their time”, but that they were making time for Strzok to be able to answer a question which in the first segment of the hearing he was told he could not answer. What changed? Who knows. The answer was still the same, he would have to check his case file and report his findings.

Gowdy specified why he was asking the specific question,  “Chairman, I appreciate you letting me make that clear, and again the context when you would not answer it was you used the word impeachment on May the 18th, 2017 and you used the impeachment on May the 22nd, 2017. Your testimony is you can’t recall a single interview you would have done as part of that investigation that was supposed to lead to impeachment, and I think that line of questioning, and I’m glad the FBI finally realized it, albeit a couple hours too late. When you are prejuding not just a result, but a punishment, which is what impeachment is, when you are prejudging the conviction and the sentencing, when you have not conducted a single, solitary interview, I’m sorry Agent Strzok, but that is letting your bias impact your professional judgement.”

Strzok: “Sir, so look, I never prejudged anything. Not in this case, not in any others.”

Jordan: “Impeachment for what Agent Strzok? Impeachment for what?”

Strzok: “At the time I was a deputy assistant director, I have section chiefs, unit chiefs, in the field, supervisors, agents, people who typically do interviews, not me. If something is notable or high level, I might be involved, but it would be rare-if never that it would be typical that I’d get out there and conduct interviews. Second, you mentioned the use of the word impeachment, that was used in the context of my not knowing what this would lead to. I was not prejudging impeachment, when I used that term it was saying it might be nothing, it might lead all the way to something on the…..(unintelligible)

Jordan: “Agent Strzok, are you kidding me?”

Things really got heated when Congressman from Texas, Louie Gohmert, questioned Strzok about his affair with Lisa Page, the first time it had been pinpointed since the hearing began.

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“There is the disgrace,” Gohmert said. “And it won’t be recaptured anytime soon because of the damage you’ve done to the justice system. And I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country. You’ve embarrassed them. You’ve embarrassed yourself. And I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”

As you could probably guess, the Democrats lost it. “You need your medication,” yelled  New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Strzok finally responded, “I have always told the truth. 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 within 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.”

Gowdy had the opportunity to question Strzok one last round of questions and Strzok seemed to do a lot of ducking and weaving around questions claiming most of his text messages were hyperbole.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman took to screaming at Trey Gowdy, “If you can’t control yourself, how can you expect this committee to control itself? You’ve been out of control since you’ve been on this committee. This is not Benghazi.”

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Clearly getting the attention of Gowdy, the Congresswoman from New Jersey took to attacking the president rather than asking Peter Strzok any questions. “You have nothing to do with the president of the United States disgracing this country every single solitary day when he embraces our enemies and is disrespectful to our allies.” She went on a rampage over President Trump by mentioning that it wasn’t Strzok’s fault Trump imposed higher tariffs on Canada, carved out opportunities for Ivanka’s business opportunities with China, and that Puerto Rico is still “underwater with no power.” She then gave her remaining 2 and a half minutes to Strzok, giving him the opportunity to use it however he saw fit. Strzok took that time to reiterate that he was telling the truth, and just how much he loves the FBI.

After another recess, Congressman Eric Swalwell from California asked if Strzok had considered pleading the fifth at the hearing, to which Strzok replied that it was never an option for him. “No, I’ve done nothing wrong. Let me rephrase that. I am sorry. I am sorry for these texts, and the way they’ve been used for the harm and hurt they’ve caused my family, for the perception of people in the public, and I am sorry and deeply regretful for that. But when it comes–that’s a personal acception to responsibility that I take, that I need and that I’m working to make right. But when it comes to official conduct, when it comes to any action which would violate a law or crime, absolutely, I’ve never done that and have no need to take the fifth.”

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Swalwell, apparently thinking that the hearing wasn’t ridiculous enough, took to pulling out several large photos, while asking Strzok equally ridiculous questions when each was held up.

While holding up a photo of Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, Swalwell asks, “On November 3rd, 2015 did you send an email to Michael Cohen and say that ‘Our boy can become president of the United States and we can engineer it. I will get Putin’s team to buy in on this,’ Did you send that email?”

“No.” replies Strzok.

Swalwell moves to his next question, holding up a photo of Donald Trump Jr.,“Did you set up a meeting on June 9th where the email setting up that meeting was sent to Donald Trump Jr.? Where Donald Trump Jr. was offered dirt on his father’s opponent? Did you set up that June 9th meeting at Trump Tower?” 

“Without stating whether or not that meeting happened, I did not set up a meeting,” Strzok replies.

Swalwell continues, “Did you reply to the emails setting up that meeting when dirt was offered and said, ‘I love it’?” Strzok replies, “I did not.”

One last photo was held up, this time of Donald Trump and Swalwell asked Strzok if he’d written one of Donald Trump’s speeches. “And in the summer of 2016 were you working as a speech writer?,” asks Swalwell. 

Strzok replies, “No.” 

Swalwell asks, “So, would you have happened to have written the speech for Donald Trump that candidate in the summer of 2016? Where he told an audience, ‘Russia, if you’re listening and then went on to tell the Russians that if they hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails they’d be rewarded, Did you write that speech?”

Strzok answers, “I did not.”

Another notable line of questioning came from Congresswoman Karen Handle from Georgia.  While addressing Strzok said, “Your assertion that your statements do not constitute bias is, well, absurd.” Handle went on, “Truly ironic, did I hear you say earlier that you’re in a senior position for the HR division for the FBI? ((Handle giggles)) That’s very ironic.” Handle asked Strzok, “Did you ever advise Mr. Mueller about your relationship with Ms. Page?” Strzok replies, “I did not.” Handle asks Strzok, “Why?” To which Strzok replies, “It did not strike me as relevant.” Handle, in her own “mic drop” moment responds saying, “You have a lot to learn about human resources. I mean...wow. It is absolutely relevant.”

Sheila Jackson Lee had her chance to make a statement at the very end of the hearing, but when Chairman Goodlatte asked her if there was any statement she would like to make, she responded by trying to ask Strzok a question about General Flynn. Goodlatte swiftly shot her attempt at asking Strzok anything and reminded Lee that this was not the time for any questions. Lee said she would leave it on the floor, but that she thought it “would be good to clarify it, because I’ve asked others.”

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She, without missing a beat continued, “But, let me finish my remarks. In the concluding comments, Mr. Strzok, again, I believe this hearing, in this long period of time showed no bias in the decisions regarding the final report on Hillary Clinton’s emails. She was vindicated. Nothing changes the Russian interference in our election of 2016. Unfortunately, no questions were asked by the Republicans about the Russian interference. In the GOP, in many instances would not let you, Mr. Strzok, answer the questions. Finally, the hearing did not give the American people, I think, the important answers that they needed. And that is how will we secure our elections in 2018. That unfortunately plays into Putin’s hands. It also did not respond or did not answer, ‘what do you do when White House officials have not gotten their own security clearance?’ And finally, let me be very clear. When our country is attacked, I want to make sure that the FBI and not the KGB shows up. We need to do a better job of answering the concerns of children that have been snatched away from their parents, the violation of voting rights, the need to end gun violence, and many other issues. But today, you stood the test of time, atleast. You’ve admitted fault and certainly admitted that you would have wanted to do things in a better way. But it cannot take away your service in the United States Military, your service in the FBI and your willingness to offer, if you will, your deference and concern about the continuation of the FBI and its service to this nation.”

The ten-hour long hearing finally came to a close promptly at 8 p.m. with Chairman Goodlatte being sure to stress his disappointment with the way the hearing had gone--not only with Strzok’s refusal to answer most questions, but also with some of the behavior that had been witnessed throughout the hearing.

“Many members on the other side of the aisle have attempted to denigrate this investigation and in particular this hearing today. One going so far as to calling it ‘stupid’. This investigation and hearing aren’t just about reviewing the 2016 election, however important that is. This is a much bigger matter. Our investigation and this hearing goes to a larger global and existential issue of the quality under the law. So, for my democratic colleagues to call this review ‘stupid’ denigrates the importance of our founding principles in the core of a system of justice. I’d venture to guess that most Americans don’t view equality under the law and fair and unbiased investigations as ‘stupid’. Mr. Strzok, this has been a lengthy hearing, so thank you for your time today. It has been extraordinary frustrating though in trying to get answers to many important questions. I understand that you have refused to answer many questions on advice of the FBI. You have also said that you cannot answer questions on advice of council, because it could disrupt the ongoing Mueller investigation. So, we are presented with a situation where you have not answered questions from Congress under the cover of the FBI and Special Counsel Mueller. Neither the FBI nor the Special Council is mentioned in the constitution. Congress is, and we have a constitutional right to have answers to the many questions that have been posed to you. While you have consistently referred to the FBI as the ‘ultimate arbiter’ who is preventing you from answering questions today, the FBI director reports to the deputy attorney general. The FBI is a component of the Department of Justice. So, at the end of the day, deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Federal Bureau of Investigation and over the Mueller investigation is where the buck stops. We now consider the Department on the line in addition to the FBI for failing to permit you to answer questions that don’t even go to the substance of any investigation, but have focused on your involvement in the process of those investigations. This is unacceptable. Congress has been blocked today from conducting its constitutional oversight duty and more importantly, the American people have not received answers on why our chief law enforcement agencies and agents and lawyers operating within them permitted improper bias to permeate through three of the most important investigations in our nation’s history. The constitution’s construct of congressional oversight over the executive branch has been severely undermined today. We will resist attempts to prevent us from getting to the facts. This is not over and you as well as future witnesses are on notice that fulsome answers are expected promptly. With that, this hearing is adjourned.”

Peter Strzok’s mistress Lisa Page, after completely defying her subpoena to testify publicly to Congress (just the day before the hearing), was given one last chance to appear before Congress on Friday--one day after the hearing--after being threatened with being held in contempt if she did not show.

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Lisa Page, however, did appear before Congress on Friday and was rather helpful. Although lawmakers declined to give details of the testimony, the questions themselves were centered around the infamous text message exchanges between her and lover Peter Strzok.

“She’s been willing to help in the spirit of transparency….We’ve certainly learned additional things today,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). Her willingness to help with the investigation into the FBI during the Clinton email scandal “speaks well of her”, Meadows added.

Rep. Mark Meadows thinks that the American people “would be happy” with what investigators learned during Friday’s closed-door hearing, adding that he found Lisa Page to be both “cooperative” and “credible.”

Meadows referred to Page as a “credible witness” as he left the hearing on Friday. “There is new information,” he told reporters. “And that information is credible.”  He continued, “She’s doing her best to help us find the truth and I think in ways she’s been falsely accused of not being willing to cooperate.”

Congressman from Florida, Matt Gaetz questioned the bureau’s presence in Page’s private testimony on Friday. 

“Lisa Page is not an FBI employee, but the FBI was here providing counsel and giving her direction as to which questions to answer or not answer and there is a question as to the propriety of that before the House,” Gaetz said, according to the Hill. He also said he found Page to be “more credible” than Strzok, as reported by the New York Post. “I didn’t agree with her characterization of every text message and every piece of evidence, “Geatz said as he left the House hearing. “But we did not see the smug attitude from Lisa Page that we saw from Peter Strzok.”

As Page left the session, she did not answer any questions posed to her by reporters. She is due Monday afternoon for yet another closed-door testimony, according to the Washington Post.

 

Written By Haley Kennington