Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spent several hours this morning in front of the House Judiciary Committee in an oversight hearing to answer questions related to Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 election.
The issue of FBI agent Peter Strzok and the text messages he sent to his mistress, FBI agent Lisa Page, was a focus for GOP members as they attempted to get Rosenstein to answer if Strzok’s overt bias — as evidenced by his own texts — influenced his role as an investigator into supposed collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government operatives.
But taken together, GOP members had a broader, implied, and more singular question: Were the Obama FBI and Department of Justice actively attempting to ensure that Donald Trump was never elected president?
There’s little doubt, based on Strzok’s own texts, that he had a clear bias against Donald Trump (less clear is if he also had a deep affection for Hillary Clinton). This is problematic enough from a public perception angle, as Patterico wrote earlier today. His overt bias was disturbing to his boss as well; he was removed from the investigation into Russian collusion once Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who had tapped him for his investigation team, was alerted to the text exchanges.
But what House GOP oversight committee members ultimately wanted to know Wednesday was just how deeply that bias went into the heart of the Obama DOJ and FBI. More to the point, they wanted to know if Strzok’s bias (and the bias of other agents that were named in the hearing as having contributed to Democrat campaigns, voted for Democrats, etc.) kept him (and them) from remaining objective, and — most importantly — if Strzok kept popping up in “everything related” to Hillary Clinton (as Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) noted) to ultimately keep Donald Trump from ever being elected.
The most damning text exchange, one that was mentioned at least 3 times during the hearing, between Strzok and Page was sent in August 2016, and seems to indicate a desire on the part of Strzok to ensure that Trump never saw the Oval Office:
Text-from Peter Strzok to Lisa Page (Andy is Andrew McCabe): "I want to believe the path u threw out 4 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 unlikely event u die be4 you're 40"
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) December 13, 2017
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) made much of the exchange, very animatedly recounting the timeline of Strzok’s involvement in Russia-related investigations. He laid that out as such:
- On January 10th, 2016, Strzok changes the terms in then FBI-Director Jim Comey’s report on Hillary Clinton’s private server and mishandling of classified information from “gross negligence” to the less litigious “extreme carelessness”.
- On July 2nd, 2016, Strzok is involved in the interview of Hillary Clinton
- On July 15th, 2016, Comey indicates he will not prosecute Hillary Clinton
- August, 2016, Strzok sends the “we can’t take that risk” text message.
Jordan then surmised that August 2016 was potentially also the time frame when false opposition research contained in the Fusion GPS dossier (that was later revealed to have been paid for by the Clinton campaign) was used to gain FISA warrants “to spy on Americans.”
Rosenstein, like FBI Director Christopher Wray at a similar hearing last week, maintained that his organization could be counted on for their integrity and that they were actively investigating — which made him unable to speak about — much of what the GOP members were concerned with.
The hearing will continue this afternoon, but it appears to have taken a turn from seeking to answer if there is a relatively innocuous political bias within the FBI and the DOJ to an inquiry into if that political bias was being used to seat a preferred candidate, thereby politically weaponizing the law enforcement arm of the federal government.