Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump in England; Peter Strzok Testifies Before House. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 12, 2018 - 15:00   ET



KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I have never seen guests in black tie line up like that in front of the palace and watch as well.


BENNETT: It just seems like, as you have said, foreign leaders have learned, this is what Donald Trump likes. This is what he prefers.

BERMAN: Right.

BENNETT: They are going to go see the queen tomorrow and arrive at Windsor.

And Ronald Reagan loved outdoorsy. He loved horses. And when he was there, the queen road horses with him at Windsor. Tomorrow, Donald Trump loves pageantry. They will walk by the troops tomorrow. They will service whatever leader -- whatever he likes to do.

And this certainly feels very official, even though it's a working visit. It's so fascinating. And, of course, the first lady is there as well standing by with Philip May, the spouses. It's just been a very interesting -- he didn't get any of this in Brussels.

Trust me. We were in Brussels with them.


BERMAN: The president and first lady arrived together, but then they split apart into the spouses dinners.

BENNETT: Exactly.

It was a leaders working dinner. They showed up at the museum together with all the other countries and their spouses. But the two -- Melania Trump went into a dinner with the spouses and partners, while the president went into a dinner to work with the other leaders, though, certainly they took that opportunity to work.

It was a cocktail party. The president walked in with the prime minister of Estonia and his wife last night. Certainly, there were a bunch of different countries. The focus was not specifically on the president, as it is here so much right now. BERMAN: And obviously the focus to a great extent on the first lady

as well.

And you know people are wondering and are going to ask, who is she wearing?

BENNETT: Who is she wearing?

I am here to tell you, John, she is wearing a -- it the J. Mendel gown. She warn J. Mendel before. It looks custom to me. She's also -- you can't see it, but she's wearing a matching Manolo Blahnik pump underneath.

But, of course, her fashion diplomacy, she uses these moments really to reflect the host country and, of course, look appropriate. She studies these things. She packs a suitcase for each of them.

BERMAN: I want to be gender-inclusive here.

So I do want to note that Philip May, who is the spouse of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, appears to wearing a double-breasted tux at some point. That's an interesting choice right there.

BENNETT: He does.

And I will take too one of the things tomorrow the first lady is that spending some time with Mr. May. And he bought a new suit for the occasion.

BERMAN: I know. And I love that.


BERMAN: And I thought that was really interesting and charming of him to say, to point out, because he knows the focus she gets when she travels around the world.

And he said he is excited for it. And he went out and bought a new suit. Do we know what kind of suit?

BENNETT: We don't.

BERMAN: I hope it's...


BENNETT: I'm sure it is.

I will say yesterday Brigitte Macron has learned to hear her highest heels when she stands next to Melania Trump, as she did during an event. Later on, we saw her. She changed to a smaller heel. But certainly she has learned when you stand next to 5'11'' Melania Trump, you wear here your tallest high heel.

BERMAN: Let me ask you just ask quickly, Mike, while I have you here and as we are watching this, again, we talk about Theresa May might want to get out of this and how precarious of a moment is for her. Is this a no-win for her over the next two days?

MATTHEW DOYLE, FORMER BLAIR SPOKESMAN AND POLITICAL ADVISER: It's certainly going to be tough for her because she obviously wants to look like they have got a strong relationship.

And yet she knows that a political endorsement from Donald Trump is something that isn't exactly going to be universally popular within the British public.

The thing that's interesting about this is that Donald Trump also does have an alternative political network. So, has got relationships with the likes of Nigel Farage. He has got relationships with the likes of Boris Johnson.

And so, therefore, he will be getting an alternative narrative to the one that the prime minister is going to present to him in these days. And that makes it doubly hard for Theresa May, because it repeats that sort of three-way debate that she's in on all of these issues at the moment.

BERMAN: It'll be a nervous few days for her, especially once this music stops.

Mike, Kate, thanks so much.

Given everything that's going on right now, we want to go back to Washington, this House hearing Peter Strzok.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: ... FBI agents who did nothing other than counterintelligence investigations for the FBI, is that correct?


JOHNSON: And you were successful in arresting and prosecuting numerous individuals for espionage and other crimes against the United States of America. Isn't that correct?

STRZOK: Me as part of a large number of very competent and talented folks, yes.

JOHNSON: And, sir, you carry -- you have gained a great deal of intelligence about Russian spying activities, their methods and sources as they operate in the United States and in other allied nations. Isn't that correct?

STRZOK: Certainly true within the United States and to a lesser extent overseas.

JOHNSON: And you have used your skills to keep America safe?

STRZOK: I have, sir. It's my proud duty to have done so.

JOHNSON: There's a lot more to your career then a few e-mails, isn't that correct-, and text messages? STRZOK: Absolutely, sir.

JOHNSON: So to boil it down to that is really a disservice to you.

I think, as opposed to be Republicans here being so desperate to find a way to discredit the Mueller investigation by discrediting you as a person, I think, rather than they doing that, we should be honoring you for the work that you have done over the last 22 years to keep this nation safe. And this hearing is a reckless of abuse and misuse of congressional authority.


I'm looking forward to Republicans finishing the hell up with this damn Peter Strzok text message investigation.

And with that, I will yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Gohmert, for five minutes.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: Be right here.


GOHMERT: Mr. Strzok, you said earlier in this hearing you were concerned about a hostile foreign power affecting our election.

Do you recall the intelligence community inspector general, Chuck McCullough, having any investigation into an anomaly found on Hillary Clinton's e-mails?

STRZOK: I do not.

GOHMERT: Well, let may refresh your recollection.

The intelligence community inspector general, Chuck McCullough, sent his investigator, Frank Rucker (ph), along with an ICIG attorney, Jeanette J. McMillian, to brief you and Dean Chapelle (ph) and two other FBI personnel that I won't name at this time about an anomaly they had found on Hillary Clinton's e-mails that were going to and from the private unauthorized server that you were supposed to be investigating.

Now do you remember it?

STRZOK: I remember meeting Mr. Rucker on either one or two occasions. I do not remember the specific content of discussions of that...


GOHMERT: Well, I will help you with that too then.

Mr. Rucker reported to those of you, the four of you there, in the presence of the ICIG attorney that they had found this anomaly on Hillary Clinton's e-mails going through her private server. And when they done the forensic analysis, they found that her e-mails,

every single one, except for four, over 30 000 of them, were going to win an address that was not on the distribution list.

It was a compartmentalized bit of information that was sending it to an unauthorized source. Do you recall that?

STRZOK: Sir, I don't.

GOHMERT: Well, he went on to explain it. And you didn't say anything. You thanked him. You shook his hand.

But the problem was that it was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia. And from what you have said here, you did nothing more than nod and shake the man's hand, when you didn't seem to be all that concerned about our national integrity of our election when it was involving Hillary Clinton.

So, the forensic examination was done by the ICIG -- and they can document that -- but you were given that information, and you did nothing with it.

And one of the things I found most egregious with Mr. Horowitz's testimony -- and, by the way, Horowitz got call four times by someone warning to brief him, leaving messages telling him about this, and he never returned the call.

He had 500 pages of bias that he gave us. And then he threw a bone to the Democrats and said, but can't find bias. And let me tell you, when you have text messages, Mr. Strzok, the way you do saying the things you did, you had been better off coming in here and say, look, that was my bias.

And you kind of to get around to that a little bit when you say, hey, everybody's got political views. Those are called biases. And we all have them. And you have come in here and said, I had no bias

And you do it with a straight face. And I watched you in the private testimony you gave. And I told some of the other guys, he is really good. He's lying. He knows we know he's lying. And he could probably pass a polygraph.




GOHMERT: No, this is my time. And it needs to be paused.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This -- point of order.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will state his point of order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A member of this committee just asserted that this witness, who is under oath and a former agent of the FBI, lied. There is no evidence of that.


I ask him to withdraw it.

GOHMERT: I do not withdraw it. He is not a member of Congress. It's not a violation of the rule.

And just as you have been expressing bias through your members about what a hero...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is not a single person on this committee who has ever characterized a witness as lying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Rhode Island...


GOHMERT: This is my time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Rhode Island will suspend.

GOHMERT: No, the disgrace is what this man has done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Texas will suspend for a moment.


GOHMERT: There is the disgrace.

And it won't be recaptured any time soon because of the damage you have done to the justice system. And I have talked to FBI agents around the country. You have embarrassed them. You have embarrassed yourself.

And I can't help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Mr. Chairman, it's outrageous.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, please.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, this is intolerable harassment of the witness.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong with -- you need your medication?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlemen controls the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ask that the witness be permitted to respond.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be permitted to respond.


GOHMERT: Did you ever talk to Hillary Clinton during your investigation, besides the one questioning you mentioned before that or after that to this day?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Point of order, Mr. Chairman. Point of order Mr. Chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will state his point of order.

NADLER: It is, I think, against the rules of the House for a member of the committee to be impugning the character of a witness.

It is -- he should ask questions to elicit -- the purpose of this hearing is to elicit information. He should ask questions to elicit information.

He should not be impugning the character of the witness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlemen is advised the rules of House only are directed to members of the House and the president of the United States.

NADLER: In other words, it is OK to impugn the character of witnesses in any way whatsoever?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, listen, I have heard many members on your side of the aisle impugn the character of somebody who is covered by the rules of the House.

But the gentlemen -- the -- the gentlemen has 20 seconds left. The clock will be turned back on and he can complete his time, and then the witness can respond.

GOHMERT: So, have you talked to Hillary, other than -- Hillary Clinton -- other than the time she was examined in front of the witnesses?


GOHMERT: So, after throwing away what you have with all the bias you have, you never have even gotten a thank you? I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman may respond.

STRZOK: Sir, well, that's quite a set of statements.

GOHMERT: Mr. Chairman, I did not finish with a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman...

GOHMERT: There was no question asked.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: mr. chairman, he has been given the opportunity to respond.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.

The time of the gentleman has expired. And, as I have indicated earlier...

GOHMERT: The rules of our hearings are, if there is a question asked during the time, the witness may respond to the question after the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The witness is going to be allowed to respond briefly.

GOHMERT: That's a new rule.

STRZOK: Sir, first, I assure you...

GOHMERT: No question.

STRZOK: ... under oath, as I spoke also during my interview a week or two ago, I have always told the truth.

The fact that you would accuse me otherwise, the fact that you would question whether or not that was the sort of look I would engage with in a family member who I have acknowledged hurting goes more to a discussion about your character and what you stand for and what is going inside you...


GOHMERT: It's your credibility.


GOHMERT: And you have lost your credibility.


GOHMERT: You have lost your credibility. That's the problem.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Texas will suspend.

The witness has had ample opportunity to express his feelings about that. And now the chair recognizes...


STRZOK: Mr. Chairman, there is a discussion about the representative's first assertion about what the ICIG said that I would like to respond to.


STRZOK: Very briefly, I have no recollection of that conversation.

I can tell you I am not a computer forensic expert. I can tell you that every allegation that we had -- and ICIG was a great and close partner -- every allegation that we had, whether from them or anybody else, was forwarded to experts who looked at it.

The scores and scores of servers and BlackBerrys and e-mails and everything we got were combed over carefully by the FBI's experts to see if there's any indicia of...


GOHMERT: But you don't recall going over those e-mails, correct?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.

STRZOK: I have no idea what you're talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the witness will suspend as well.

STRZOK: I do not know what you're talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is enough.

(CROSSTALK) GOHMERT: ... just can't let a witness go on forever, when the fact is, you never did anything about those, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, order!


GOHMERT: You didn't do anything about it.

STRZOK: Sir, if there was a lead, I gave it to the team, unequivocally. There was nothing along the lines that was not addressed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman -- Mr. Strzok, you will suspend.

GOHMERT: Well, that will come out...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gohmert, you will suspend.

Mr. Deutch, I apologize. I have been instructed by the ranking member that we're going committee to committee. So the next time gentleman who is going to be recognized is the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Connolly, for five minutes.


The American public might be forgiven for mistaking this so-called hearing for a Russian political show trial. It's got all the trappings, character assassination, demagoguery, connecting dots that aren't meant to be connected, generalizing from an isolated incident, cherry-picking facts, sometimes fabricating facts.

It's astounding. It's a new low in the United States Congress. What a shame.

But Mr. Strzok, you're under oath. And my understanding is, the big Republican beef in order to discredit you and discredit the FBI, and thereby, hopefully, from their point of view, undermine the Mueller investigation, hinges on the fact that you sent out some indiscreet personal e-mails about your political views on the then pending 2016 election.

Is that correct?

STRZOK: Sir, that's my understanding.

CONNOLLY: All right. So you're under oath. I want you to say yes or no.

The following e-mail: "Character matters; @realDonaldTrump is obviously not going to win, but he can still make an honorable move, step aside, and let someone else try." Did you write that e-mail?

STRZOK: I don't believe I did.

CONNOLLY: No, you didn't.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse wrote that e-mail, another unforgivable sin. He should be here as well, apparently.

"My wife, Julie, and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter. Do you think I can look her in the eye and tell her that I endorsed Donald Trump, when he acts like this and his apology? That was no apology. That was an apology for getting caught. I can't tell the good people of my state that I endorsed a person who acts like this."

Was that you, Mr. Strzok?

STRZOK: No, sir.

CONNOLLY: No, it wasn't. It was Republican Jason Chaffetz, former chairman of my committee.

Did you write the following: "For the good of the country and to give the Republicans a chance at defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump should step aside. His defeat at this point seems almost certain, and four years of Hillary Clinton is not what's best for this country. Mr. Trump should put the country first and do the right thing"?

That's you, certainly, right?

STRZOK: No, sir.

CONNOLLY: No. You're right. It was Republican member of Congress Mike Coffman from Colorado.

"In light of these comments, Donald Trump should step aside and allow our party to replace him with Mike Pence or another appropriate nominee. I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump. And I would never vote for Hillary Clinton."

That's yours?

STRZOK: No, sir.

CONNOLLY: No. That's Republican Barbara Comstock of our home state of Virginia.

All right, well, here's another one. "It's now clear Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States and cannot defeat Hillary Clinton. I believe he should step aside and allow Governor Pence to lead the Republican ticket."

You wrote that one?

STRZOK: No, sir.

CONNOLLY: You didn't? No, you're right. That's Republican Bradley Byrne of Alabama.

Well, how about this one? "Donald Trump's behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won't vote for him. As disappointed as I have been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party. Now it's abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow responsible, respectable Republicans to lead the ticket."

You wrote that one?

STRZOK: No, sir.

CONNOLLY: Oh, no. That was Republican Martha Roby of Alabama.

Well, how about this one? "I respectfully ask that you, Mr. Trump, with all due respect, step aside. Step down. Allow someone else to carry the banner of principles."

You wrote that one?

STRZOK: No, sir.

CONNOLLY: No, you're right again. That was Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

So it sounds like, when you were writing these e-mails in the heat of the campaign, you had a lot good company on the Republican side of the aisle. And now you're an orphan. I wonder what changed.

But your opinion was hardly a striking one, hardly unusual, especially where you and I live, Northern Virginia. Is that correct?

STRZOK: Yes, sir.

CONNOLLY: So your sin of writing an e-mail criticizing candidate Trump and predicting he would lose was not an isolated kind of opinion; is that correct?

STRZOK: No, it was not, to my knowledge.

CONNOLLY: And do you, under oath, confirm what the inspector general, Mr. Horowitz, said, there's no evidence, your personal opinion notwithstanding, that in any way it tainted the ongoing criminal investigation led by Mr. Mueller?


CONNOLLY: That's your testimony under oath?



CONNOLLY: I thank you. And I'm so sorry for the treatment you have received here today. As a member of Congress, as a member of the Oversight and Government

Reform Committee, I take no pleasure in watching this spectacle.

Thank you, Mr. Strzok, for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Poe, for five minutes.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: I thank the chairman.

And I take no pleasure in the self-pity that you have shown the rest of us the entire day.

I'm a former prosecutor. I loved being a prosecutor in the district attorney's office and I spent 22 years on the criminal bench trying criminal cases, saw about 25,000 felony cases. And I saw a lot of people in law enforcement. But

in our entire justice system, from the beginning to the end of the justice system, people are involved in our justice system. And those people, whoever they are, cannot be biased one way or the other. And it starts in a courtroom with the jury.

Both lawyers spend a lot of time, including the court, talking to jurors about whether they're biased. Why? Because people who are biased or come across as biased, they're out of here. You can't serve on that jury. You cannot be fair.

We don't let judges serve on cases if they have a bias. They are recused. Many times, they just recuse themselves. They recognize there's a bias.

And we don't let people testify unless the bias when they testify is allowed to be brought out. In other words, if a witness is testifying, let's say you, for example, both sides are entitled to bring out the bias for or against the -- about the witness that is against the offender, let's use in that case, because in our justice system things must be fair and things must look fair.

There must not be bias, and there must not be a look of bias by anyone. That's the way our system works.

Now, in my opinion, who -- my opinion is not any better than anybody else's, but I have seen a lot of people over the years, kind of in the people business, judging people. And I have heard your statements today.

And it seems to me that your own words have shown your bias. You say you're not biased, but we base things on evidence, not based necessarily on words. And your words to me prove your bias, your attitude proves your bias, your arrogance proves your bias.

And I think you're protesting too much proves your bias. But be that as it may, the scary part of that is not whether you're biased or not. The scary part of it is, well, what about other people in the FBI? What about people we don't know about that have the same attitude that you do about people who are being investigated by the FBI?

That is what is scary, because people out here, the rest of us who don't get to work for the FBI or the Justice Department, we are concerned about our justice system doing the right thing for the right reason and making sure that our justice system is just.

And part of the fairness in justice is that there isn't a bias for or against anybody as they go through the system. Now, based on what you have said, I don't think I would ever allow you as a juror to be on a criminal case, ever.

I don't know that the defense attorney or the prosecutor would allow you to be on a jury, because your words are what we hear. Your protesting just seems to make those words more of a show of your bias.

The comment that you're going to stop him in an e-mail or a text or something, that not only shows your bias. That shows that you're going to act on your bias and you're going to stop President Trump. That's the way it comes across, the evidence comes across.

So can -- how do you assure us that the attitude that you have shown us today of the text messages and all of the things that we have been talking about, how do we know that's not rampant throughout the FBI? How do we know that?

STRZOK: Sir, what I would answer to you...

POE: Can you just answer that question?


POE: How do we know that there's not bias in the FBI in this particular investigation or other investigations? How do we know that?

STRZOK: Sir, the way you do that is exactly what you suggested. You look to the evidence. You look to the actions of the men and women of the FBI in the conduct of their cases.


You look to my actions in the conduct of the investigations. You have done with others a spectacular job of equating the word bias with personal political belief, and it's astounding how effective that's been.

But you know they're not the same. The fact of bias...


POE: Reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time. You will have a chance to try to answer the other question that you're trying to answer.

How do we know that the attitude that you have shown us today, whatever you want to call it -- Mr. Cohen (ph) wants to make a saint out of you. How do we know that the attitude you have today is not the same attitude of the FBI as they're investigating other cases? How do we know that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would ask that the witness be permitted...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired, and the gentleman may answer the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully without interruption.

STRZOK: Sir, the way you judge that is what I said. You look at the evidence. You look at the acts, what FBI agents and analysts and everybody else do.

You look at what I did. You look at what the inspector general concluded, not only me, but all the agents and assistant directors and EADs and DDEs and everybody involved in the investigation. And you see that the evidence, unequivocally, is there is no act of bias.

So this false assertion that you're making that political personal belief must equal bias, that somehow we have merged those two words together in the dictionary is one of the triumphs of what's been going on recently that I cannot disagree with more.

A judge asks jurors, are you able to set aside your personal opinions and render a judgment based on the facts? Sir, you know that, based on your extensive experience.

What I am telling you is that I and the other men and women of the FBI every day take our personal beliefs and set those aside in vigorous pursuit of the truth wherever it lies, whatever it is.

POE: And I don't believe you.

I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired.

The chair now recognizes the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Deutch, for five minutes.

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: I thank the chairman.

Let's be clear about what's going on here. We understand that President Trump doesn't like this investigation. We understand that. That's clear.

But what we have seen in this joint committee and in the Judiciary Committee meeting just a couple weeks back, with members of the House demeaning themselves by asserting that the deputy attorney general sat there under oath and lied, today, repeated assertions that Mr. Strzok is sitting before us under oath lying to us, the efforts to impugn the credibility not just of Mr. Strzok, but of the entire FBI, it's shameful, truly shameful.

The depths to which some of my colleagues have -- have plummeted in order to advance a narrative to support the president's opposition to an investigation, which is an investigation, as Mr. Strzok pointed out and as too many of us seem to have forgotten, is an investigation into the Russians' efforts to destabilize the democracy of the United States of America, I wish that the attacks that have been leveled against Mr. Strzok, the attacks on Rod Rosenstein, the attacks on our FBI director, I wish there was even a slight degree of that same fervor directed against what the Russians did in 2016, so that we could get to the bottom of that and anticipate what they're trying to do this November and in 2020.

Now, Mr. Strzok, this is the inspector general's report. The number one finding in this inspector general's report is that the FBI should not discuss ongoing criminal investigations. That's what the I.G. said Director Comey did wrong. The I.G. said he shouldn't have done it.

The I.G. went into great detail about the longstanding practice and the reasons for that practice, to protect the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations, in this case, the investigation that I just referred to, a direct attack by a foreign adversary.

But listening to my Republican colleagues, it's almost as if they never read this report, like you never bothered to pick it up, or, worse, you read it, you understand it, but you don't care.

You're asking Mr. Strzok to do exactly what the inspector general said not to do, exactly.

Mr. Strzok, if you answer these questions that you have been asked about this investigation, are you concerned that the inspector general could investigate you and issue a report just like this one that says that you should never have done that?

STRZOK: Certainly, that's possible. I'd be more worried about the impact on the ongoing investigation.