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FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 6/17/2018 Matt Zapotosky

Bob Goodlatte wearing a suit and tie sitting in front of a curtain © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney said in a letter made public Sunday.

Peter Strzok, who was singled out in a recent Justice Department inspector general report for the politically charged messages, would be willing to testify without immunity, and he would not invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to any question, his attorney, Aitan Goelman, said in an interview Sunday. Strzok has become a special target of President Trump, who has used the texts to question the Russia investigation.

Goelman said Strzok “wants the chance to clear his name and tell his story.”

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“He thinks that his position, character and actions have all been misrepresented and caricatured, and he wants an opportunity to remedy that,” the lawyer said.

If Strzok were to testify publicly, the hearing could be explosive, perhaps exposing new details about investigators’ thinking on some of the FBI’s most high-profile probes.

Strzok had a leadership role on both the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, as well the probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. That investigation is now being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who once considered Strzok a key member of his team but removed him once informed of the anti-Trump messages.

Goelman said he had not discussed any dates with lawmakers on when Strzok might appear at a hearing. Politico reported that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) had started the process to subpoena Strzok, though Goelman said that the lawmaker had done so without having asked whether Strzok might appear voluntarily.

Goelman, who is with the firm Zuckerman Spaeder, wrote in a letter to Goodlatte that a subpoena would be “wholly unnecessary.”

“Special Agent Strzok, who has been fully cooperative with the DOJ Office of Inspector General, intends to voluntarily appear and testify before your committee and any other Congressional committee that invites him,” Goelman wrote.

Spokespeople for Goodlatte did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Sunday.

The inspector general alleged in a report released last week that Strzok had implied “willingness to take official action” to prevent Trump from becoming president, pointing to a message in which the agent told an FBI lawyer in August 2016 that “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.

“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok.

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. Page and Strzok were romantically involved at the time and used their work phones to engage in long-running text discussions of various work, personal and political topics.

Horowitz also suggested that Strzok’s bias might have played a role in the FBI’s not acting expeditiously in the fall of 2016 to follow up on a new lead related to the Clinton email case. In late September, agents in the FBI’s New York Field Office had discovered emails potentially relevant to the case on a laptop of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner (D), but the agents investigating Clinton did not seek a search warrant to access the messages until late the next month.

“The IG Report totally destroys James Comey and all of his minions including the great lovers, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who started the disgraceful Witch Hunt against so many innocent people,” Trump wrote Saturday, referring to the former FBI director. “It will go down as a dark and dangerous period in American History!”

Goelman said that if asked to testify, Strzok “intends to answer any question put to him, and he intends to defend the integrity of the Clinton email investigation, the Russia collusion investigation to the extent that that’s a topic, and his own integrity.”

He said there was “no question” that Strzok regrets sending anti-Trump messages, but added: “I think what he was doing is expressing his political opinions in what he thought was a private text conversation, and he regrets that this has been weaponized by people with political motivations to try to discredit the Mueller investigation.”

Goelman said that Strzok was not willing to use his official position to affect Trump’s chances of being elected and that “his political conviction that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for American national security is not based on his bias, it was based on information that was available to him, and his perspective on American national security.”

He also disputed that Strzok took steps to protect Clinton, noting that the inspector general found that his client pushed for more aggressive steps in that case and tasked two other FBI agents with following up on the Weiner laptop lead. He said Strzok did not do the one thing that might have actually helped Clinton and hurt Trump: leak word of the investigation of the Trump campaign.

“The kind of drumbeat — the repeated assertion of bias and the investigation was infected by anti-Trump bias — it’s completely illogical because the only thing that Pete and the FBI’s actions or inactions did throughout this period of time benefited Trump and hurt Hillary’s electoral chances,” Goelman said.

The inspector general referred his findings on Strzok to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which recommends possible disciplinary measures. Goelman said Strzok remains an FBI employee, though he declined to say what work his client was doing.

matt.zapotosky@washpost.com

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