The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, is getting ready for a scheduled closed-door deposition on Wednesday with FBI agent Peter “We’ll Stop It” Strzok, who is appearing in response to Goodlatte’s subpoena. In an interview Sunday with Maria Bartiromo on FOX News, Goodlatte pointed to Strzok as a key figure in both the Hillary and the Russia/Trump investigations, and he made it clear he’s very interested in questioning him about the extremely biased text messages he exchanged with Lisa Page.
As we all know by now, the most eyebrow-raising of his texts was sent to Page just eight days after he was placed in charge of investigating Trump. It suggests more than bias –- it reeks of the desire to act on that bias, and Strzok certainly was in a position to do so. And the fact that THIS PARTICULAR TEXT wasn’t included in the texts supplied to the IG by the Justice Department --- the IG had to use a painstaking process to turn it up himself --- gives the impression that the DOJ had drawn a red line on what it would and would not reveal and had decided that this was especially damning.
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We all know the message in question. Lisa Page had written Strzok, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Well, that’s pretty straightforward. But Strzok answers more cryptically: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
What does THAT mean? Who is “we”? What are “we” going to “stop”?
Now, if this were, say, 1998 and the subject were Bill Clinton, we who knew him well could imagine just how he’d answer a question like this. Remember how we used to have to parse every word he uttered to figure out his dodge? (In fact, I think that’s when the word “parse” entered the common language.) It’s not that hard for a skillful lawyer to finesse an answer that deals with his own state of mind. After all, who’s to know, besides himself, what was in his mind? Here’s the type of answer Clinton might give:
“Well, I think it all comes down to what the meaning of ’we’...is. (small smirk) By ‘we,’ I didn’t mean myself and that woman, Miss Page. By ‘we,’ I meant, um, the AMERICAN PEOPLE. The American people...will stop it...at the BALLOT BOX! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Now, I want you to listen to me. I’m gonna say this again. (wagging finger) I did not...use...my...position...against that candidate. Mr. Trump. These allegations are FALSE.”
I chose a Bill Clinton parody simply to show how easy it is to bamboozle people about what you really meant by something. The word "is" meant just what was going to get Clinton out of immediate legal jeopardy. Strzok, I’m sure, is an exceedingly crafty lawyer as well, with access to a host of similarly crafty lawyers. If he tries to claim his text was about something innocuous like voters stopping Trump at the ballot box, I’m not buying it.
For one thing, if Strzok had meant anything other than what we think, he likely would have phrased it differently, as in, “No, he’s not going to get elected,” or “No, people won’t vote for him.” Also, it was four days after he sent the text that he and Lisa texted about meeting in Andy’s office and discussing the “insurance policy.” It’s doubtful he can convince anyone that this was about anything but an insurance policy against President Donald J. Trump. (Claiming you were talking about a literal insurance policy might work if you were in Health and Human Services ha-ha, but not the FBI.) And let’s not forget Page’s text to Strzok about being in the right place at the right time. The “stop it” text has to be be taken in context with scores of viciously anti-Trump messages. When that is done, any ambiguity falls away.
So let’s all put on our skeptics’ hats and hold them on through what are bound to be powerful gusts of wind from the witness chair. These seasoned lawyers have spent years shielding themselves from public view, and they’re not likely to “stop it” now.
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