Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), during a remarkable exchange with FBI Director Christopher Wray at a hearing Thursday, suggested that Peter Strzok — the FBI official who was removed from the special counsel team — was responsible for using the Clinton-funded dossier to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.
If true, it would be a stunning development in the Russia investigation. It would mean that a top FBI official took what was an unverified piece of opposition research funded by Trump’s political opponent, and used it to obtain a surveillance warrant on the Trump campaign.
“If this happened, if you had the FBI working with a campaign, the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research, dressing it all up and turning it into an intelligence document and taking it to the FISA court so they could spy on the other campaign — if that happened, that is as wrong as gets,” Jordan told Wray.
It is also not clear yet whether Strzok or other FBI officials used the dossier to launch the investigation into the Trump campaign, which has cast a cloud of suspicion and fueled partisan attacks against the Trump administration until this day.
As recently reported, Strzok was the No. 2 official at the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and played a major role in the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email server. He recommended watering down language in a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”
Strzok would later sign the documents launching the probe into the Trump campaign. He would also unnecessarily interview former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in January 2017 about his calls with a Russian ambassador, when he had not done anything wrong. Later, Flynn would be charged with lying to the FBI.
Strzok was kicked off the special counsel team in July, with the FBI and Justice Department refusing to tell the House intelligence committee why. It was not until orchestrated leaks to the Washington Post and the New York Times over the weekend that it was revealed that Strzok had sent anti-Trump text messages to another lawyer on the special counsel team, Lisa Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
Jordan suggested during his exchange with Wray that Strzok would not be removed for just the anti-Trump texts, since FBI officials are allowed to have political opinions, share those opinions privately, and when many other members of the Special Counsel team have also already expressed their political bias by donating to Clinton and other Democrats.
Jordan suggested it had something to do with the dossier.
Here’s the full exchange, with the key part in bold:
JORDAN: Thank you. Director, was Agent Peter Strzok the former deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI?
WRAY: I don’t remember his exact title, but I believe that’s correct.
JORDAN: And he’s the same Peter Strzok who was a key player in the Clinton investigation, the same Peter Strzok who interviewed Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, participated in the Clinton — Secretary Clinton’s interview? And he’s also the same Peter Strzok who — now we know — changed Director Comey’s exoneration letter, changed the term “gross negligence,” which is a crime, to “extreme carelessness”? Is that the same guy?
WRAY: Well, Congressman, I don’t know every step that the individual you mentioned was involved in. But certainly, I know that he was heavily involved in the Clinton e-mail investigation.
JORDAN: And he — thank you. And he — and is it — is this the same Peter Strzok who helped — was a key player in the Russian investigation, and the same Peter Strzok who was put on Mueller’s team — Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s team?
WRAY: I certainly know that he was working on the special counsel’s investigation. Whether or not he would be characterized as…
JORDAN: And the same…
WRAY: … a key player on that investigation, that’s really not for me to say.
JORDAN: … OK — and the same Peter Strzok that, we learned this past weekend, was removed from the special counsel team because he exchanged text messages with a colleague at the FBI that were — displayed a pro-Clinton bias — is that accurate?
JORDAN: Talking about the same guy? OK.
JORDAN: Well, here’s what I’m not getting: Peter Strzok is selected to be on Mueller’s team, after all this history, put on Mueller’s team, and then he’s removed for some pro-Clinton text messages. I mean, there are all kinds of people on Mueller’s team who are pro-Clinton. There’s been all kinds of stories — PolitiFact reported 96 percent of the top lawyers’ contributions went to Clinton or Obama.
But Peter Strzok, the guy who ran the Clinton investigation; interviewed Mills, Abedin; interviewed Secretary Clinton; changed “gross negligence,” a crime, to the term “extreme carelessness;” who ran the Russian investigation; who interviewed Mike Flynn gets put on Mueller’s team, and then he gets kicked off for a text message that’s anti-Trump.
If you kicked everybody off Mueller’s team who was anti-Trump, I don’t think there’d be anybody left. So here — there’s got to be something more here. It can’t just be some text messages that show a pro-Clinton, anti-Trump bias. There’s got to be something more. And I’m trying to figure out what it is.
But my hunch is it has something to do with the dossier. Director, did Peter Strzok help produce and present the application to the FISA court to secure a warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign?
WRAY: Congressman, I’m not prepared to discuss anything about a FISA process in this setting.
JORDAN: Not a — we’re not talking about what happened in the court. We’re talking about what the FBI took to the court, the application. Did Peter Strzok — was he involved in taking that to the court?
WRAY: I’m not going to discuss in this setting anything to do with the FISA court applications.
JORDAN: Well, let’s remember a couple of things, director, and I know you know this. We’ve all been made aware of this in the last few weeks. Let’s remember a couple of things about the dossier.
The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, which we now know were one and the same, paid the law firm, who paid Fusion GPS, who paid Christopher Steele, who then paid Russians to put together a report that we call a dossier, full of all kinds of fake news, National Enquirer garbage.
And it’s been reported that this dossier was all dressed up by the FBI, taken to the FISA court and presented as a legitimate intelligence document, that it became the basis for granting a warrant to spy on Americans.
And I’m wondering — I’m wondering if that actually took place. It sure looks like it did, and the easiest way to clear it up is for you guys to tell us what was in that application and who took it there.
WRAY: Congressman, our staffs have been having extensive interaction with both intelligence committees on our interaction with the FISA court, and I think that’s the appropriate setting for those questions.
JORDAN: Here’s what I think, Director Wray. I think Peter Strzok, head of counterintelligence at the FBI; Peter Strzok, the guy who ran the Clinton investigation, did all the interviews; Peter Strzok, the guy who was running the Russian investigation at the FBI; Peter Strzok, Mr. Super Agent at the FBI — I think he’s the guy who took the application to the FISA court.
And if that happened — I mean, think — if this happened, if you had the FBI working with a campaign, the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research, dressing it all up and turning it into an intelligence document and taking it to the FISA court so they could spy on the other campaign — if that happened, that is as wrong as gets.
And you know what? Maybe I’m wrong. You could clear it all up. You could clear it all up for all of us here — all the Congress who wants to know, and frankly, all of America who wants to know — you could clear all up by releasing (ph) — we sent you a letter two days ago — just release the application.
Tell us what was in it. Tell us if I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am. I think that’s exactly what happened. And, if it did, it is as wrong as it can be, and people who did that need to be held accountable.
WRAY: Congressman, we will not hesitate to hold people accountable after there has been an appropriate investigation, independent and objective, by the inspector general into the handling of the prior matter. And, based on that, I will look at all available remedies, depending on what the facts are when they are found.
As to the access to the dossier, that’s something that is the subject of ongoing discussion between my staff and the various intelligence committees.
JORDAN: There’s nothing prohibiting you, Director. Is there anything prohibiting you from showing this committee the — what was presented to the FISA court — that — the application you all put together at the FBI, that was presented to the FISA court? Is there anything preventing you from showing us that?
GOODLATTE: The time of the gentleman has expired. The director can respond.
WRAY: I do not believe that I can legally and appropriately share a FISA court submission with this committee.
JORDAN: I’m talking about what the FBI put together, not what the court had. What you took there — what was — the process put together, what you presented, what you took to the court.
WRAY: When I sign FISA applications, which I have to do almost every day of the week, they are all covered with a “classified information” cover. So that’s part of why we will not be discussing it here.
JORDAN: Director, is it likely that Peter Strzok — is it likely that Peter Strzok…
GOODLATTE: The gentleman — the gentleman — the gentleman…
JORDAN: … played a part in the application presented to the FISA court?
GOODLATTE: … the gentleman’s time has expired. However, I do want to follow up on your last response to the gentleman.
This committee, the House Judiciary Committee, has primary jurisdiction over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. So any request for documents coming to any part of the Congress should include the House Judiciary Committee.
And if it is classified in any way, shape or form, it can be provided to us in a classified setting, but that is information that we are very much interested in…
JORDAN: Mr. Chairman…
GOODLATTE: … and very much want to receive.
JORDAN: … the discussion — the chairman — yeah, I don’t think there’s anything prohibiting the FBI from giving us what they used to put together what was taken to the FISA court. That’s what we’re asking for, and there is nothing prohibiting him from doing that.
GOODLATTE: I don’t think there is, either. The time the gentleman has expired, however. You care to respond to that, Director Wray?
WRAY: No, I think I’ve covered.