Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing was an embarrassment and spiraled into a confused circus. One chaotic moment came when FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok said he couldn’t answer a question related to the Russia investigation because the FBI’s lawyers had instructed him not to, leading the committee’s chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to threaten to hold Strzok in contempt. As reported:
“Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asked Strzok — whose anti-Trump text messages led to his removal from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller — how many interviews he conducted in the first week of the probe.
“Congressman, as you know, counsel for the FBI, based on the special counsel’s equities, has instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to interfere,” Strzok replied.
Gowdy repeated his question and Strzok repeated his answer, infuriating Goodlatte.
“Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question,” Goodlatte said. “Are you objecting to the question?”
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., interjected.
“Mr. Chairman, I object,” Nadler said. “This demand puts Mr. Strzok in an impossible position. He is still an employee of the FBI, and FBI’s counsel has instructed him not to answer the gentleman’s question. If we have a problem with this policy we should take it up with the FBI, not badger Mr. Strzok.”
“The point of order is not taken,” Goodlatte said.
“It’s right on point,” Nadler replied.
“Are you just going to make up rules as we go along?” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., asked Goodlatte.
Strzok pointed out that he was not under subpoena and appearing before the committee voluntarily, which appeared to infuriate Goodlatte even more.
“You have not stated a valid, legal basis for not responding to a question directed to you by a member of the United States House of Representatives,” the chairman said, threatening to hold Strzok in contempt.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., countered the suggestion by noting that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had also refused to answer questions from the committee.
“Will the committee also consider contempt for Mr. Bannon?” Swalwell asked.
Goodlatte said Swalwell was out of order.”
The entire hearing was a joke and representative of the dysfunction in the House of Representatives.