Did the FBI agent who played a leading role both in the investigations of former Trump national security director Michael Flynn and of Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information use the notorious anti-Trump dossier to spark the probe of Trump-Russia “collusion” that has gripped Washington?
A Republican lawmaker thinks so, and he took the opportunity to test out his theory in FBI Director Christopher Wray’s first testimony before Congress, a hearing Thursday of the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, noted to Wray that FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation last summer after discovering he had sent anti-Trump text messages to his mistress.
Jordan, pointing out that some 90 percent of Mueller’s team donated to Democratic campaigns, reasoned that the anti-Trump texts must not have been the grounds for Strzok’s dismissal.
“If you kicked everybody off of Mueller’s team who was anti-Trump, I don’t think there’d be anybody left,” said Jordan.
“My hunch is it has something to do with the dossier,” the congressman told the FBI director.
Jordan said he believes it likely was Strzok who brought the infamous – and now largely discredited – dossier of “opposition research” against Trump to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, or FISA, court to justify surveilling members of the Trump campaign.
“If you had the FBI working with the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research and dressing it all up and turning into an intelligence document and taking it to the FISA court so they could spy on the other campaign that is as wrong as it gets,” said Jordan.
He asked Wray to release the FISA application to Congress, but the FBI director insisted he can’t do that while an inspector general is examining the issue.
The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., contended otherwise without elaborating further. Goodlatte, before the hearing, called on the Justice Department and FBI to turn over to his committee any information that was presented to the FISA court regarding the dossier.
Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, already has threatened a contempt resolution against DOJ and FBI leaders if they don’t turn over information related to the dossier.
Fox News reported Thursday the DOJ is now reviewing Strzok’s text messages in preparation for releasing them to Congress.
See Rep. Jim Jordan’s questioning of FBI Director Christopher Wray:
Meanwhile, the Washington watchdog Judicial Watch has released an email showing another Mueller deputy, Andrew Weissmann, praised outgoing acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend Trump’s controversial travel ban.
And Fox News reported Thursday a senior Justice Department official, Bruce G. Ohr, was demoted this week amid an ongoing investigation into his contacts with the opposition research firm responsible for the anti-Trump dossier.
‘Imposing personal political opinions’
Goodlatte made it clear that Republicans on the committee are pursuing evidence of bias in the Mueller investigation.
“Investigations must not be tainted by individuals imposing their own personal political opinions,” he said during the hearing Thursday. “We do not know the magnitude of this insider bias on Mr. Mueller’s team nor do we have a clear understanding of the full magnitude of bias reflected in the Russia investigation and prior Clinton email investigation.”
Wray assured the committee that an inspector general is investigating the handling of the Clinton email investigation. The FBI director said he will take appropriate action “based on nothing other than the facts” and the law, “not political considerations.”
Republicans point out Strzok changed Comey’s early draft language describing Clinton’s mishandling of classified information through a private email server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”
Goodlatte asked Wray if the language was changed to avoid charging Clinton, and the director said he couldn’t comment, citing the ongoing IG investigation.
The ranking member on the committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., charged Republicans are questioning the credibility of Mueller and his team because of its progress, noting Flynn pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI.