Democrat deftly defends Peter Strzok on the question of anti-Trump bias

Peter Strzok found an unlikely ally during Thursday’s testimony over text messages the FBI agent wrote critical of Donald Trump and his supporters: congressional Republicans.

While Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hammered Strzok throughout the day for his 2016 text to former FBI lawyer Lisa Page assuring her that Trump would not become president, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., used his time to question Strzok to read off a series critical comments about Trump written by members of the GOP.

“Character matters, @realdonaldtrump is honestly not going to win he can still make an honorable move, step aside and let someone else try,” began Connolly, reading a tweet from Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse.

“My wife, Julia and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter,” Connolly continued, reading words from former House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who stepped down from Congress last year. “Do you think I can look her in the eye and tell her that I endorsed Donald Trump when he acts like this — and his apology? That was no apology, that was an apology for getting caught. I can’t tell the good people of my state I endorsed a person who acts like this.”

“For the good of the country and to give the Republicans a chance at defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump should step aside,” continued Connolly, reading the words of Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado. “His defeat seems almost certain and four years of Hillary Clinton is not what’s best for this country. Mr. Trump should put the country first and do the right thing.”

“In light of these comments, Donald Trump should step aside and allow our party to replace him with Mike Pence or another appropriate nominee,” Connolly added, quoting his fellow Virginian Rep. Barbara Comstock. “I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump and I would never for Hillary Clinton.”

(Screengrab via CSPAN)
(Screengrab via CSPAN)

During his testimony, Strzok countered Republican claims that his political bias against Trump should have precluded the FBI agent from participating in the investigations into both Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign by stating that stating that, while he held a low opinion of the then presidential candidates, it did not translate into any action on his part.

“At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok told lawmakers.

Connolly’s readout of Republican criticism of Trump seemed designed to bolster Strzok’s assertion that personal political beliefs did not equate to bias that would improperly influence the performance of the FBI agent’s duties, as well as to show that Republicans, too, had negative opinions about Trump’s chances of becoming president.

“It’s now clear Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States and cannot defeat Hillary Clinton,” Connolly said, quoting Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala. “I believe he should step aside and allow Governor Pence to lead the Republican ticket.”

“Donald Trump’s behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president and I won’t vote for him,” continued Connolly, reading the words of Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama. “As disappointed as I’ve been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party. Now it’s abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow responsible, respectable Republicans to lead the ticket.”

“I respectfully ask that you, Mr. Trump, with all due respect, step aside,” concluded Connolly in the words of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. “Step down, allow someone else carry the banner of principles.”

Strzok worked as the lead agent of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team until last July, when the text messages and emails between him and Page were discovered. At the beginning of the hearing, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., threatened to hold Strzok in contempt for not answering questions the FBI told him not to answer about the active investigation.


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