TV doesn’t get better than Thursday’s all-day interrogation of disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok, by 72 members of Congress for more than 10 hours.
Though fun to watch, the hearing raises a concern. We fear Strzok’s smarmy disrespect for legal process could harm reputations of other law enforcement personnel.
Americans should rest assured Strzok is an outlier in his agency and field. He is the rare bad cop, but one with national attention many times greater than his colleagues will get in their combined careers.
The vast majority of law enforcement professionals do not embark upon disruptive, inner-office affairs with co-workers. Few use government email for profanity laced pillow talk, leaving a paper trail of extreme bias against the subject of an investigation.
Most men and women of law enforcement conduct the hard labor of gathering and examining facts objectively. If they do not, justice fails.
In Thursday’s hearings, Strzok spent hours insisting he could send stridently critical emails, of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, without allowing personal bias to influence an investigation he led.
Strzok claimed he did not remember sending the “we will stop” Trump text to colleague Lisa Page, with whom he had an extramarital affair. Later in the hearing, Strzok went off the rails by inadvertently discrediting his claim of forgetting the text. Suddenly, he had stark memories of writing it.
“In terms of the text that, ‘we will stop him,’ you need to understand that was written late at night and off the cuff,” Strzok said. “And it was in response to a series of events including then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero … ”
Members of Congress forced Strzok to read communiques that promise to stop Trump’s election, referencing the suspect with f-bombs and other unseemly and disparaging labels. Another email complains of the “smell” of Trump supporters in a rural Virginia Walmart. Another called Trump supporters “ignorant hillbillies.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a former Texas state judge, explained how Strzok’s behavior will cause long-term damage to law enforcement. The hearing devolved into a circus after Gohmert confronted Strzok about cheating on his wife with Page.
“I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country,” Gohmert said. “You’ve embarrassed them, you’ve embarrassed yourself. And I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page?”
Democrats groaned and shouted disapproval.
“Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous!”
“Shame on you, Mr. Gohmert!”
“Mr. Chairman, please!”
“Have you no shame?” This is a powerful harassment of the witness!”
“Do you need your medication?”
Gohmert doubled down.
“The credibility of a witness is always an issue,” he said.
More sparks flew after Strzok said he did not “appreciate” the way U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., framed a question.
“I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, agent Strzok. I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations in 2016,” said Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor and solicitor.
As Republicans ridiculed Strzok, Democrats defended and honored him. Incredibly, Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen compared Strzok’s testimony to sacrificial military heroism.
“If I could give you a purple heart, I would. You deserve one,” Cohen said.
Sure. Poisoning an investigation, tainting the FBI, and lying to Congress rank right up there with giving life or limb in service to our country.
Strzok’s continued employment undermines his FBI colleagues. Unlike him, they deserve the public’s trust and respect.