FBI Agent Strzok Says He is ‘Notch in Putin’s Belt’

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Peter Strzok, the FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias, told Congress on Thursday that his work has never been tainted by politics and that the intense scrutiny he is facing represents “just another victory notch in Putin’s belt,” the Associated Press reports. Strzok, who helped lead FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email use and potential coordination between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign, testified publicly for the first time since being removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team after discovery of the derogatory text messages last year. Strzok said he has never allowed personal opinions to infect his work, that he had information that had the potential to damage Trump but never leaked it and that the focus on him by Congress plays into “our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

Republican members of the House judiciary and oversight committees were expected to grill Strzok for hours. They maintain that the text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page color the outcome of the Clinton email investigation and undercut the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. Trump himself has launched personal attacks against the two FBI officials, including a Wednesday tweet that asked “how can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time” by Strzok. Strzok acknowledged that while his text message criticism was “blunt,” it was not directed at one person or political party and included jabs not only at Trump but also at Clinton as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders. Strzok said there was “simply no evidence of bias in my professional actions,” adding, “Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.”

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