Now that FBI agent Peter Strzok has testified publicly, it’s easy to see why Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees were so disappointed after the private hearing at their inability to pry any information out of him. On Thursday, the same tactics were on display –- perhaps even more so, as cameras were rolling –- when Democrats joined forces with FBI attorneys to help Strzok avoid answering questions. Thursday’s public spectacle was stunning and even a little heartbreaking as it pulled back the curtain on our government at work.
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I do have to crow a little, because we learned Thursday that in his closed-door meeting, Strzok had actually used the very interpretation of his “We’ll stop it” text that I predicted he would; namely, that by “we” he meant “the American people” and that he was talking about their power at the ballot box. Yeah, that’s the ticket! (Maybe he got the idea from reading my commentary; who knows? You never can tell who’s going to see something like that.) But nobody’s buying. That “safe” interpretation of the one really incriminating text –- the “smoking gun” that implied he and...who?.. were taking action to influence the election –- is just too inconsistent with all the other withering anti-Trump messages he and Lisa Page exchanged. Another reason it didn’t work is that Strzok testified at one point that he didn’t even remember writing the text, and then later gave a detailed context for it. Which is it?
If congressional Democrats are even capable of embarrassment, they surely embarrassed themselves here, by making it obvious that they were desperate to keep the lid on FBI misconduct when it came to the exoneration of Hillary Clinton and the pursuit of Donald Trump. Several of them, notably Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, demonstrated a sweeping lack of knowledge in their MSNBC-style accusations of President Trump and his campaign associates. They must get their facts on the “Trump/Russia” investigation straight from Joy Behar.
Republicans occasionally displayed some ill-advised behavior as well. Louie Gohmert of Texas threw all judgment out the window and got personal, with a reference to Strzok’s lack of honesty with his wife. Yes, it goes to credibility, but It was a bad moment; we’re better than that and should be maintaining higher ground.
As promised, here is my list of suggested follow-up questions for Peter Strzok. These are included for just for fun and entertainment value, as Strzok surely would find an excuse not to answer even one.
1. Mr. Strzok, if, as you say, you are frustrated over not being allowed to answer questions that you would just LOVE to answer, why is it that you are sporting that smug little cat-that-ate-the-canary grin whenever you say you can’t? (At times, your nose was so high in the air, we had to wonder if you were trying not to smell the Trump support in the room.)
2. How is it possible that you don’t recall writing a particular text but can later remember and explain in perfect detail the exact circumstances that prompted you to write it? Now that you have more leisure time, perhaps you could volunteer for a research study on brain function.
3. When the Democrats almost derailed the hearing with their constant “point of order” interruptions and roll call vote on an unrelated motion, did you gather up your things and call Uber in the assumption you could go home?
4. When you gave that windy, self-serving speech about the sanctity of the FBI and were rewarded with applause in the chamber from Democrats, did you think you were auditioning for Jimmy Stewart’s part in a remake of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON? (Of course, in this new version, the hero would be arguing not to clean up Washington but to save the corrupt status quo.)
5. When you spoke to your bosses about possibly heading up the “Trump/Russia” investigation, did you remember to remove your “I’m With Her” button, or did you think it gave you an advantage?
6. Just for fun, did you and then-FBI Director James Comey ever have contests at work to see who could sound the most self-righteous? Who usually won?
7. It was suggested at Thursday’s public hearing that you deserve a Purple Heart for your appearance before the committees, and you did not disagree. Which part of your body was wounded in service to your country? Describe your injuries in full.
8. You wrote an email referring to multiple versions of the Steele “dossier” that were being circulated around the FBI. By now you’ve no doubt read John Solomon’s reporting on this. Which version of this unverified material did you use for FISA applications to spy on Trump associates, or will the attorneys let you answer that?
9. You testified that there was no evidence of bias in your professional actions. With your remarkable ability to speak absurdities with a straight face, and your obvious hatred for President Trump, have you considered a second career as a late-night TV host?
10. When (if?) Lisa Page testifies behind closed doors on Friday, she’ll benefit from having heard your public testimony. You knew she was watching you on Thursday and probably taking notes; did you have a private signal for her, like when Carol Burnett used to pull her earlobe to say hi to her grandmother?
11. When Democrats repeatedly brought up other subjects, like immigrant children who had been separated from their parents, did you think you had walked into the wrong hearing by mistake?
12. Finally, are you still receiving a paycheck from the FBI? If the paychecks stop coming, are you worried that you will have to put on a nose clip and shop at Walmart?