The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok Tuesday for a second round of questioning early next week, but this time it will be public.
Strzok, formerly the No. 2 counterintelligence official at the FBI, has been lambasted by Republicans lawmakers for the mountain of text messages he exchanged with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump during the time the pair worked on the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Strzok was interviewed last week for 11 hours, in both unclassified and classified settings, after House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte initially slapped him with a subpoena to testify last month, although the two sides ultimately agreed to a voluntary interview and the subpoena was withdrawn.
“Special Agent Strzok requested that the initial hearing be public and, one way or another, he will testify publicly soon,” said Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “Pete wants the American people to hear his testimony for themselves, instead of having his words leaked, twisted and mischaracterized by members of Congress. The only question is when and before what Committee, and those details are not yet settled.”
Following the interview, Democrats called for the committee to release the interview transcript and Trump complained on Twitter last month that Strzok was being questioned behind closed doors. “Release the transcript, Mr. Chairman,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, last week. “The American people deserve to hear Peter Strzok’s testimony under oath. Do not hide his testimony.”
Goodlatte responded that the transcript “will be released to the American people at the appropriate time.”
One Democratic source familiar with Strzok’s private interview said that the committee’s Democrats found his testimony to be credible, and they think a public hearing could help his case against the Republican charges that Strzok tainted the Clinton and Russia investigations.
Goelman has maintained all along that his client is willing to testify publicly, but recently sent the House Judiciary Committee a blistering email, obtained by CNN, charging that the invitation for Strzok to return next week for a public grilling was a “trap” when the first transcript has yet to be released.
“If the Committees were actually interested in making sure the American people knew the truth, they would release the transcript of Pete’s previous testimony,” Goelman said Tuesday. “Their real intentions are made clear by the fact that they took his testimony in secret, selectively leaked parts of it and are now withholding the transcript from the public.”
The House Judiciary Committee is not the only committee that is seeking Strzok’s testimony. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, invited Strzok to appear last month as part of the Democrats’ continuation of the panel’s Russia investigation. And several Senate committees would also like to speak with him.
Before briefly joining special counsel Robert Mueller’s team last summer, Stzrok was part of the FBI team investigating connections between Trump campaign associates and Russia. He also worked on the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information.
While he is still technically employed at the FBI, his future there remains uncertain in the wake of a report by issued by the Justice Department’s inspector general last month. Inspector General Michael Horowitz has said he could not conclude that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over the Hillary Clinton email probe in the fall of 2016 was “free from bias.”
Yet Stzrok told Justice Department investigators that had he actually wanted to prevent Trump from being elected, he would not have maintained confidentiality about the investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians in the months before the election.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees announced that Strzok has been subpoenaed to appear on July 10 at 10 a.m. ET.