(Bloomberg) -- Republican Representative Trey Gowdy questioned the Justice Department’s inspector general over “attempts to mitigate” anti-Trump bias in the FBI, as House members held a politically charged hearing on the watchdog’s 500-page report.
“Bias and fairness cannot co-exist,” Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Tuesday. Evidence of prejudice against Donald Trump within the FBI “conjure anger, disappointment and sadness to everyone who reads it.”
It was a challenge to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s finding that bias he uncovered among at least five FBI officials didn’t affect decisions in the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. House members divided along party lines Tuesday, as senators did in questioning Horowitz a day earlier.
Horowitz testified that Justice Department prosecutors, not FBI agents, made key decisions and there was no evidence they were biased in recommending against prosecuting Clinton or her aides for mishandling classified information.
Even though Horowitz’s report issued last week dealt solely with the Clinton probe, Trump has claimed vindication in the report for his assertion that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is engaged in a “witch hunt” in the continuing inquiry into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election campaign, whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s re-election campaign manager, tweeted during the hearing that Trump should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and “End the Mueller Investigation.” He wrote that the inspector general’s report gives Trump “the truth to end it all.”
Like other Republicans, Gowdy zeroed in on anti-Trump text messages exchanged in 2016 between FBI agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who was at the time an FBI lawyer. Horowitz acknowledged that Strzok was present when the FBI interviewed Clinton.
“Huh?” Gowdy responded, as if surprised. The former federal prosecutor later questioned whether FBI agents went into that crucial interview with Clinton “loaded for bear,” as he said most prosecutors would.
Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio said text messages by Strzok indicated that he carried his bias against Trump into Mueller’s probe. Mueller removed Strzok from his team in the summer of 2017 after learning of the text messages.
Jordan said Republicans want answers “about this whole ordeal” from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
But Democrats underscored Tuesday that the report -- on actions taken before Mueller was appointed -- didn’t find that the FBI “plotted against” Trump’s election, as Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, said.
“President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and some of my Republican colleagues are desperate to make that leap. Who wouldn’t be, in their position, with 23 indictments and the president’s campaign manager in jail?” Nadler said. “But their argument is based on innuendo, not on the facts, and certainly not on this report.”
Representative Elijah Cummings, the Oversight and Government Reform panel’s top Democrat, said in his statement that “the Republicans are now tripling down -- threatening to impeach” Rosenstein and Wray.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.