(National Sentinel) Showdown: An angry Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has threatened the FBI and Department of Justice with contempt over their refusal to explain why special counsel Robert Mueller demoted a senior FBI investigator now believed to be a political enemy of President Donald J. Trump.
Stories in the Washington Post and New York Times on Saturday noted that Peter Strzok, who was in a pivotal role during the original FBI investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion, and then in another key role in Mueller’s investigation, and who earlier had played an equally important role in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email by the bureau, was moved out of Mueller’s office following anti-Trump texts he exchanged with a top FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, with whom Strzok was also having an extramarital affair.
Strzok, a seasoned counterintelligence investigator, was reassigned to the FBI’s office of human resources, an obvious demotion, in July, the Washington Examiner reported.
The Post noted that Strzok and Page sent each other tests that “expressed anti-Trump sentiments and other comments that appeared to favor Clinton.”
Reports about Strzok’s demotion and the affair with Page were unknown to Nunes, a California Republican, until they were publicized in the media yesterday, despite the fact that the committee had issued a subpoena that pertained to information about Strzok’s demotion more than three months ago.
“The committee’s broadly worded subpoena for information related to the so-called Trump dossier went to the FBI and DOJ on Aug. 24. In follow-up conversations on the scope of the subpoena, committee staff told the FBI and DOJ that it included information on the circumstances of Strzok’s reassignment,” the Examiner reported.
Nunes met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russia-related probes, on Oct. 11. Then, Nunes specifically talked about the committee’s request for information pertaining to Strzok.
That meeting was followed by a committee staff meeting on Oct. 31 with FBI, but bureau officials refused to honor a request for information regarding Strzok.
In an Oct. 31 committee staff meeting with the FBI, bureau officials refused a request for information about Strzok.
Then, on Nov. 20, the committee once more requested to interview Strzok, after he met three days earlier with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On Nov. 29, Nunes once again talked with Rosenstein, with the subject being Strzok.
Finally, on Dec. 1, committee staff once again requested to talk with Strzok.
In each of those cases, neither the FBI or DoJ acted, making the reports by the Times and the Post on Saturday appear like an orchestrated leak, as both papers published the reason why Strzok was demoted, another with concerns that revelations about his behavior would help the president.
“Among federal law enforcement officials, there is great concern that exposure of the texts they exchanged may be used by the president and his defenders to attack the credibility of the Mueller probe and the FBI more broadly,” the Post reported. The Times added that “the existence of the text messages is likely to fuel claims by Mr. Trump that he is the target of a witch hunt.”
That’s true, as it should be of concern to the president’s backers and to defenders of fair investigations in general that such an important person in both the Clinton and Trump probes has expressed bias private.
“It will be important for investigators — and the public — to see Strzok’s and Page’s texts to assess the extent of the problem. But in any event, Nunes is extremely unhappy — not only with the revelation of bias but with the FBI’s resistance,” the Examiner added.
“By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility,” Nunes said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
“This is part of a months-long pattern by the DOJ and FBI of stonewalling and obstructing this committee’s oversight work, particularly oversight of their use of the Steele dossier. At this point, these agencies should be investigating themselves,” he added.
Interesting, as the stories about Strzok were preparing to break, the Justice Department notified Nunes that it would meet some of its demands for information — which also did not sit well with the chairman.
“The DOJ has now expressed — on a Saturday, just hours after the press reports on Strzok’s dismissal appeared — a sudden willingness to comply with some of the committee’s long-standing demands,” Nunes said in the statement. “This attempted 11th-hour accommodation is neither credible nor believable, and in fact is yet another example of the DOJ’s disingenuousness and obstruction.”
Because of the stonewalling and related revelations about Strzok, Nunes has instructed committee staff to draw up contempt of Congress citations for Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Nunes said he’ll take action on the contempt charges by the end of December if neither official ensures compliance with the committee’s demands for information.
The Examiner noted further that the charges are a big deal, adding that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has already demanded the DoJ and FBI provide the committee with the information it seeks, accusing both of “stonewalling.”
“That was five weeks ago. Now, after this latest episode, it seems likely that leaders in Congress are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they see as the FBI and DOJ jerking lawmakers around. At some point, they will act,” the Examiner’s Byron York reported.
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