That’s the one word that would best describe the testimony of embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok on Capitol Hill, today.
Strzok is the FBI agent accused of anti-Trump bias, who shared damning text messages with his mistress, FBI attorney Lisa Page.
The text messages were discovered last summer during a routine review by the inspector general, at a time when Strzok was serving on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and possible obstruction by the Trump team.
Long before the public every found out about the text messages, Mueller bounced Strzok from his team and back down to a position with Human Resources. Page’s duties with the investigation had already ended and she had moved on.
In the Kabuki theater that is the Republican party, these days, there have been months of wailing over the “biased” FBI, as well as a tainted investigation by Mueller.
Of course, there’s no proof of bias, and several subsequent investigations have concluded that there was no bias, but that’s not stopping Trump’s goon squad.
Weeks ago, the threat was made to subpoena Strzok and bring him to testify before the House Oversight Committee. Strzok quickly agreed to come, saying there was no need for a subpoena. He would not only come, but wanted that testimony to be in public.
House Republicans issued the subpoena anyway, and the testimony was behind closed doors.
Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”
To date, House Republicans are refusing to release the transcripts of that hearing, even though their Democrat counterparts are asking it to be made public.
Today, however, was round two, and you can kind of get a feel for why Republicans may be holding off on releasing those transcripts, because this has been brutal.
Strzok declined to answer the first question from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, about how many people he interviewed in the first week of the federal Russia probe — on the instructions of the FBI general counsel.
“Based on that, I will not answer that question because it goes to matters related to the ongoing investigation,” Strzok told lawmakers.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who was overseeing the hearing, almost immediately stepped in, threatening contempt proceedings: “Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question.”
Don’t miss what happened here.
Keeping in mind that I have always admired Representative Gowdy, who has given some powerful performances in his time with various committees and in various investigations, I’d say this was a beat-down, and both Gowdy and Goodlatte deserved to be smacked.
What they demanded of Strzok was to give them information, right there, on the spot, that might otherwise be deemed sensitive, and related to an ongoing investigation. He was then threatened with contempt for suggesting that he would defer to FBI counsel in that regard.
He was within his rights. That was the right thing to do. Why would they so strongly object to his efforts to protect an ongoing investigation?
Goodlatte would not be denied.
“You have not stated a valid legal basis for not responding to a question from a member of the House of Representatives,” Goodlatte replied.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tried to step in with “point of order” interjections repeatedly, stating that Republicans know he is not able to answer questions about an ongoing federal probe.
Goodlatte, however, batted down his objections as “not valid” and “not well taken.”
“The chairman is not being proper,” Nadler said of Goodlatte.
“The chairman is being proper,” Goodlatte replied.
No he wasn’t.
I’m actually really ashamed of Trey Gowdy. I said I was an admirer. I have been for such a long time, because I’ve always felt that he was passionate about real justice and about getting to the truth.
When he announced he wouldn’t be running for reelection and that he was tired of politics, even going on several talk shows to denounce the harsh partisanship in Washington and defending the FBI, I felt like he was speaking truth and that he spoke with conviction.
Now it feels like somebody has persuaded him not to leave Washington and the GOP twisting, but to put on a partisan mask for one, last show.
In classic Gowdy form, he went after Strzok.
Strzok claimed Gowdy had twisted his words upon answering a question about Mueller’s decision to remove him from the team overseeing the probe into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential race, stating that he did not “appreciate” what he originally said being “changed.”
“I don’t give a d*mn what you appreciate, Agent Strozk,” Gowdy replied. “I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.”
Again, investigations proved there was no bias, and even went on to say that the texts between Strzok and Page may have cast a shadow over the investigation, but they did not prove bias.
Gowdy, at one time, seemed fine with that conclusion.
This is all an act.
Watch the response of Strzok.
The man is not a “good guy.” This nightmare was uncovered because of an illicit affair, after all. He is, however, right to defend himself and the FBI, and that is what he did.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 12, 2018
Good for him.