House Panels subpoena FBI official who sent anti-Trump texts

Representative Bob Goodlatte. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: FBI Agent Peter Strzok, a central target of allegations by President Donald Trump and his allies of investigative bias and misconduct, has been subpoenaed to appear for closed-door questioning before two House committees.

Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, said Strzok has been ordered to appear before members of both the Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees on Wednesday as part of their investigation “into decisions made by the Department of Justice in 2016.”

The subpoena announcement, issued Friday evening, said Strzok had yet to appear before the committees, despite repeated requests. Strzok is to sit for a deposition by the panels.

Strzok had already emailed Goodlatte through his lawyer last weekend, saying he would voluntarily appear.

Trump and his supporters have accused the FBI and the Justice Department of using their powers to undermine his administration. The focus on Strzok, who became a public face of the allegations, has become even more intense with the release by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz of his long-awaited report on the Hillary Clinton email inquiry.

Accused of bias
Included in its findings was a never-before publicly released text message from Strzok to a fellow bureau official in August 2016 saying that “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president.

During a hearing Tuesday, Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio said that the text message and others by Strzok showed that he carried his bias against Trump into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller removed Strzok from his team last summer on learning of the anti-Trump texts that he exchanged in 2016 with Lisa Page, who was an FBI lawyer.

Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, wrote in USA Today that his client isn’t the “sick loser” portrayed by Trump in a tweet but “a man who helped keep our country safe for more than two decades.”

Goelman said Strzok was under attack in “a calculated political strategy to demonize Pete and the men and women of the FBI and the Department of Justice in order to pre-emptively discredit the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.”

Horowitz referred Strzok and other officials to the FBI for possible disciplinary action. Page left the FBI in May.

Strzok was recently escorted from his office at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington as part of an internal disciplinary review that Goelman said might be tainted by political influence. Goelman said that Strzok remains an FBI employee.