It only took a matter of minutes before Thursday’s congressional hearing was overshadowed by raucous disagreement between lawmakers on different sides of the aisle.
According to The Hill, FBI employee Peter Strzok appeared before the House oversight and judicial committees this week to address concerns about his role in the bureau’s special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Strzok, who was working on that probe, was dismissed from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller after text messages surfaced that led to the perception of bias against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
At this week’s hearing on Capitol Hill, Strzok declined to answer the first question presented to him.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican representative from South Carolina, asked Strzok how many people were interviewed in the first week of the investigation.
After consulting with FBI counsel, Strzok said the bureau had instructed him not to answer “because it goes to matters related to the ongoing investigation.”
That answer led to an interjection by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
He said Strzok was “under subpoena” and “required to answer the question,” thought the witness responded that he disagreed because he showed up for the hearing voluntarily.
Much of what followed was bickering over protocol and congressional rules between Republican and Democratic legislators on the two committees.
Goodlatte went on to threaten to hold Strzok in contempt of Congress if he refused to answer the question, which resulted in significant opposition by several Democrats.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., responded by calling for the same reaction to former Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon, who was under subpoena when he refused to answer Gowdy’s questions.
Goodlatte says that he plans to move to hold Strzok in contempt at the end of the hearing. Eric Swalwell brings up the point that Steve Bannon wasn't held in contempt (when he was under subpoena) for refusing to answer questions from Trey Gowdy before the House Intel Committee.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 12, 2018
Democrats also shot back against Goodlatte when he instructed Strzok that he could only confer with his personal attorney and not FBI counsel during the hearing.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., frequently chimed in to provide reasons he believed Strzok should be allowed to avoid answering questions about the ongoing investigation.
Goodlatte routinely dismissed his and other interruptions, however, leading to audible gasps and statements of exasperation by Democratic lawmakers.
As CNN reported, Nadler and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., had set the stage for partisan opposition in a statement released on Wednesday.
“This investigation is a political charade — a platform to elevate far-right conspiracy theories and undermine the special counsel’s ongoing criminal investigation of the President and his campaign aides,” the lawmakers wrote of Thursday’s hearing.
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