President Trump on Sunday called FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s testimony on Capitol Hill last week over the investigation of Russian interference in the election a “disgrace to our country."
“I thought it was an absolute disgrace,” Trump said during an interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” “Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it.”
Trump added that he believes Strzok’s role in the investigation hurt the United States relationship with Russia.
“I think it hurts our relationship with Russia,” he said. “I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries.”
The explosive and combative 10-hour testimony by Strzok was the first time he’s spoken publically since being removed last year from special counsel Robert Mueller's team because of texts he traded with an FBI lawyer in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Strzok insisted that he never allowed personal opinions to influence his work, though he did acknowledge being dismayed by Donald Trump's behavior during the campaign.
“At no time, in any of these texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok said. “And the suggestion that I, in some dark chamber in the FBI, would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me.”
Strzok added: “The proposition that that is going on or that it might occur in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission and it is deeply destructive.”
In breaking his silence, Strzok came face-to-face with Republicans who argued that the texts tainted two hugely consequential FBI probes he had helped steer: inquiries into Hillary Clinton's email use and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina was one of the FBI agent’s harshest critics during the testimony, berating Strzok over the content of his text messages, his purported bias against Trump and why he was taken off of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.
"Agent Strzok had Hillary Clinton winning the White House before he finished investigating her," said Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "Agent Strzok had Donald Trump impeached before he even started investigating him. That is bias."
The testimony, besides being compelling viewing, also revealed how the partisan divide over the investigation of Russian interference in the election of Trump remains precipitously deep, with no political bridge in sight.
On the one side are Democrats who heard in Strzok's testimony an unflinching, if flawed, G-man trying to stop Russian interference in American democracy. On the other are Republicans who see anti-Trump text messages Strzok sent to his lover as evidence of alarming bias at the highest levels of government.
The aftermath produced one certainty: Congress is hopelessly split in conducting executive branch oversight of the Trump administration. Lawmakers reflect their constituents, and after running on partisan overdrive for years, they staked out defiantly opposing sides. The level of acrimony poses a real-life stress test for the ability of Congress to function.
"Politicians love to grandstand and that was a perfect venue for all of them to do so," said Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., who said the proceedings reminded him of the Bill Clinton impeachment sessions he watched as a young man two decades ago. In fact, some of the same veteran lawmakers were still there playing starring roles, he said. "And I would contend that Mr. Strzok was doing it a little, too."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.