The long-awaited Department of Justice Office of Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation was finally released last week, and anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok figured heavily in the many examples of political bias among bureau officials.
Strzok had been a lead agent on the Clinton email investigation as well as the FBI’s investigation of alleged collusion between Russia and candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. He also served briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, until his aggressively anti-Trump text messages with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page were initially revealed in 2017.
Given Strzok’s apparent and quite obvious animus against Trump, certain congressional committees had discussed issuing a subpoena to compel his testimony, such as the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, according to Politico.
But it would seem that a subpoena will prove unnecessary to compel Strzok’s testimony before the committee, as a Politico reporter shared via Twitter a letter from Strzok’s attorney to Goodlatte stating that the FBI agent would voluntarily testify before the Judiciary or any other committee that wanted to speak with him.
STRZOK intends to voluntarily testify before the House Judiciary Committee, his lawyer says.
The letter: pic.twitter.com/uHLwZ6rguT
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) June 17, 2018
That letter to Goodlatte from Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman read, “I have read press reports that you are initiating the process to issue a subpoena to Special Agent Strzok to testify before your committee. While you are, of course, free to continue pursuing this process, it is 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 concluded.
The fact that Strzok has decided to voluntarily testify before the committee, as well as the claim that he has been “fully cooperative” with the IG, has raised a bit of speculation in regard to what he knows, what he might say and why he has chosen voluntary testimony ahead of a probable subpoena.
A main theory with regard to this decision is that Strzok has “flipped” to the IG on his FBI superiors — namely fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and fired Director James Comey — and will testify to their politically biased mishandling of major investigations into Clinton and Trump.
On the other hand, it has also been noted that Strzok’s offer to appear before Congress lacked the words “under oath.” If he were to appear of his own volition, rather than under a subpoena, it’s possible he could avoid being sworn in before he testified, meaning he’d have a bit more wiggle room to speak without fear of potentially committing perjury.
According to a 2006 article from Slate — which was focused on voluntary, not-under-oath testimony from then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee with regard to alleged National Security Agency spying — it is really entirely up to a committee chair whether a witness is placed under oath or not prior to delivering testimony.
Every committee handles things differently, and while some may require every witness to take an oath — voluntary appearance or not — others almost never require an oath be taken, even if the witness appearance was compelled via a subpoena.
As for that oath, lying to Congress under oath can result in felony perjury charges. However, even voluntary witnesses who don’t take an oath can still be charged with making “false statements” if it is found that they lied during their testimony.
At first glance, it might seem as though Strzok is an innocent man who is willing to tell all to Congress without being forced to testify.
But upon closer inspection, and given what we know of Strzok from his anti-Trump texts and role in the FBI investigations as revealed by the IG, this could simply be a clever ruse to give himself a bit more space to work with, without the threat of a perjury charge hanging over his head.
Then again, Goodlatte may decide to place Strzok under oath regardless — and Strzok could always just plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself — and this all could be nothing more than a public relations ploy to try and improve the rather poor perception much of America has of Strzok at the moment.
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