Tensions were high Thursday as FBI Agent Peter Strzok testified before the House Oversight Committee regarding his actions during the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Strzok faced particular scrutiny from House Republicans who saw his controversial text messages to FBI lawyer Lisa Page as evidence of bias against President Donald Trump.
One of the most heated exchanges occurred when House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) repeatedly insisted that it was bias that led to Strzok's removal from the investigation by Mueller.
Strzok passionately disagreed, assuring that neither he nor any other FBI agent on the investigation allowed personal opinions to inform any of their actions, maintaining that Special Counsel Mueller only removed him due to the possible appearance of bias. Strzok took Gowdy to task for insinuating that the FBI would ever let personal opinions affect its investigations.
Watch the impassioned exchange below:
The suggestion of improper political action from the FBI "deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the… https://t.co/hjs728rpf4— CNN (@CNN) 1531413600.0
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee accused Gowdy of badgering Strzok. Nonetheless, Strzok's reply was just as forceful and Americans across Twitter were grateful for it.
This was an epic response, especially given under the enormously unprofessional badgering Strzok was subjected to b… https://t.co/cVVbZeT1nw— Liddle’ Savage (@Liddle’ Savage) 1531409762.0
Trey Gowdy, being schooled by FBI Agent Strzok, who explains the context for his now-infamous text about stopping T… https://t.co/FF2TaigwB8— Joyce Alene (@Joyce Alene) 1531409189.0
@ABC I am in awe of Peter Strzok. The strength of character, that level of professionalism - that *genuine* patriot… https://t.co/ZYzsNucafr— Judy Ellis (@Judy Ellis) 1531410602.0
The texts Gowdy and other House Republicans repeatedly referred to were exchanged in March of 2016. Strzok referred to then-candidate Donald Trump as a "loathsome human" and an "idiot," in addition to other expressions of aversion toward the president.
Strzok repeatedly insisted that the presence of personal opinions, especially those of an FBI agent, do not indicate that biased actions were taken:
My presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be President of the United States. It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process, for any candidate.
Representative Gowdy's exchange with Strzok was only one exchange in an especially discordant and often chaotic hearing.
The hearing was rife with what many House Democrats saw as an attempt by Republicans to discredit the investigation of a deliberate attack on United States democracy. House Democrats repeatedly reiterated that Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election had been successful, and chastised House Republicans for not focusing on that instead.
Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) was particularly critical of the House Republicans' attempts to discredit the FBI:
Now, you know, to listen to some of my friends, you would think that the FBI, which I had always felt was made up of conservative law enforcement people, had magically been transformed into a left-wing organization. That’s not my understanding and, in fact, if you take a look at the people in charge, you’ve got Mr. [Christopher] Wray, who was appointed by Mr. Trump who was not a Democrat, Mr. Comey, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, he’s not a Democrat. I happen to know that Robert Mueller is not a Democrat. So, these are not political designates made by political operatives.
Lofgren wasn't the only American who thought House Republicans were being too abrasive.
Peter Strzok hearing was another example of Trump accusing Dems of what the republicans is actually doing. Trump h… https://t.co/73rQdfVyq1— Ambassador Rob (@Ambassador Rob) 1531421225.0
Republicans really wish they had prepared better for this Peter Strzok hearing. They’re getting absolutely crushed… https://t.co/n9lyLym8d6— Scott Dworkin (@Scott Dworkin) 1531412202.0
I gotta say, the disdain with which Republicans have treated Strzok during this hearing is going to reverberate ins… https://t.co/2ZfIhdPTS5— Mieke Eoyang (@Mieke Eoyang) 1531412014.0
Peter Strzok hearing is lit. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is killing it. Donald Trump Republicans & Russia are going to… https://t.co/pCzePZHQ1P— JoJo (@JoJo) 1531415166.0
Only 1 hour into the 'Peter Strzok Hearing'. WHAT A JOKE the Republicans are!!! #GOP Circus -- Where's the Clown-… https://t.co/Sw4GNUUDkJ— I'm not "Human Scum". Neither Are You!🌊 (@I'm not "Human Scum". Neither Are You!🌊) 1531421090.0
Democrats have accused Republicans of seeming determined to shatter the credibility of Peter Strzok and, in turn, the entire Russian collusion investigation. The hearing has yet to conclude, but Strzok is refusing to break.