Former FBI lawyer said to be 'cooperative' during Capitol Hill meeting about anti-Trump texts
By KAROUN DEMIRJIAN | The Washington Post | Published: July 14, 2018
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers contend that former FBI lawyer Lisa Page provided new information during private testimony Friday that further convinces them political bias marred the investigations of Hillary Clinton's emails and the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia.
Though they offered no specifics, several GOP congressmen characterized Page as "cooperative," "forthcoming," and "transparent" during her interview with the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. The closed-door session lasted nearly five hours and was expected to resume Monday afternoon.
They said also that Page addressed questions that went unanswered during the public testimony Thursday of FBI agent Peter Strzok, who cited orders from the bureau not to disclose certain details about its work on the Clinton and Trump probes.
Page's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Page and Strzok came to lawmakers' attention over a series of anti-Trump text messages they exchanged while they were having a romantic affair, material uncovered by the Justice Department's inspector general during an internal probe of the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation. Both briefly served on special counsel Robert Mueller III's investigative team, which is focused on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign aided those efforts.
Page's answers "heightened my concern that the processes at the FBI were contrived to fit the desired outcomes of people who were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump," Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said, emerging from Friday's meeting.
The same House panels grilled Strzok for 10 hours the day prior, an exchange that frequently devolved into shouting matches as Democrats and Republicans argued about the fairness of questions posed to him. Strzok defended himself as an unbiased agent in the conduct of his official duties, even if his texts - including one note in which he told Page that "we'll stop" Trump from becoming president - revealed he had a low opinion of Trump as candidate and president.
Page also defended herself as unbiased, GOP lawmakers said - a characterization with which they did not agree. But they had mostly kind words after speaking with her for several hours: Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who had been among Page's harshest critics heading into the session, told reporters that "in ways she's been falsely accused about not being willing to cooperate."
GOP lawmakers threatened to hold Page in contempt of Congress before she agreed to participate in the interview on Friday and tried to get her to appear alongside Strzok Thursday. But after speaking with her, some said they doubted it would be necessary to subject her to a public hearing, provided the transcript of her closed-door interview would be released eventually.
"She's been willing to help in the spirit of transparency. . . . We've certainly learned additional things today," Meadows said. "Certainly this has been a long time coming, but I would think that the American people would be happy with the way that the transcribed interviews today went."
Though lawmakers would not detail just what new information they had learned from Page, Meadows said he believed the FBI's lawyers were softening their stance on what questions they were willing to let witnesses answer. Page no longer works for the bureau; Strzok still does, though he is currently under professional review.
Strzok's opinions about Trump dominated his Thursday hearing, as GOP lawmakers took him to task over his texts and pressed him - usually unsuccessfully - to reveal information about investigative steps and decisions he made in the Russia probe.
His affair with Page also did not escape scrutiny.
"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 eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page?" Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, asked of Strzok - prompting one of the many outcries from Democrats.