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F.B.I. Agent at Center of Russia Probe Turns Tables on G.O.P.

WASHINGTON — The embattled F.B.I. agent who oversaw the outlet of the Russia investigation fastened an competitive non-public protection on Thursday, rejecting accusations that he let his non-public affairs of state bias his authentic movements and labeling Republican assaults on him “another victory notch in Putin’s belt.”

“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” the agent, Peter Strzok, informed House lawmakers investigating what they are saying is proof of rampant bias at the highest ranges of the F.B.I.

In his first public feedback, he concluded his ready remarks with a pointed broadside in opposition to his antagonizers.

“I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity,” Mr. Strzok stated, proceeding: “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”

He concluded: “As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it is profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in.”

[Read Peter Strzok’s opening statement.]

Mr. Strzok, a occupation agent, performed a pivotal position in two of the bureau’s maximum politically fraught instances: the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e mail practices as secretary of state and a separate inquiry into Russia’s makes an attempt to intrude within the 2016 election and its interactions with the Trump marketing campaign.

Mr. Strzok has come underneath intense scrutiny for the reason that Justice Department’s inspector common came upon hundreds of textual content messages that he exchanged with a senior F.B.I. legal professional, Lisa Page, colorfully disparaging Mr. Trump.

In one change, Ms. Page, who additionally labored on each investigations, stated to Mr. Strzok that Trump is “not ever going to become president, right?”

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Mr. Strzok responded.

Mr. Strzok stated on Thursday that he deeply regretted the messages, however that they didn’t quantity to greater than non-public political affairs. He stated a broader glance at his texts would display disparaging remarks towards all of the applicants within the 2016 marketing campaign.

“In the summer of 2016, we had an urgent need to protect the integrity of an American presidential election from a hostile foreign power determined to weaken and divide the United States of America,” he used to be to mention. “This investigation is not politically motivated, it is not a witch hunt, it is not a hoax.”

House Republicans and Mr. Trump have seized on the ones texts, charging that they undercut the integrity of the Russia investigation, which has since been taken over by means of the particular suggest, Robert S. Mueller III. Republican lawmakers in an instant faced the agent with volumes of such messages on Thursday.

Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, promptly pushed aside Mr. Strzok’s defenses, pronouncing that the agent has a “most unusual and largely self-serving definition of bias” that had undermined the truthful management of justice.

“He thinks calling someone destabilizing isn’t bias,” Mr. Gowdy stated, referencing texts despatched by means of Mr. Strzok. “He thinks protecting the country from someone he hasn’t even begun to investigate isn’t bias. He thinks promising to ‘stop’ someone he is supposed to be fairly investigating from becoming ever president isn’t bias.”

Mr. Gowdy stated later, “That is prejudging guilt. It is prejudging punishment. And it is textbook bias.”

A former Army officer, Mr. Strzok has labored at the F.B.I. for greater than twenty years. He rose briefly thru its ranks, incomes a name throughout the bureau as one of its maximum savvy and dependable counterintelligence brokers. It used to be that recognition and an increasing number of senior positions that landed him on the groups investigating each Mrs. Clinton and ultimately Mr. Trump.

The inspector common’s record used to be unsparing in its complaint of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, however discovered no proof that their non-public perspectives had affected prosecutorial selections within the Clinton case. The inspector common, Michael E. Horowitz, continues to research the F.B.I.’s dealing with of key sides of the Russia case.

Mr. Strzok, who spent a contentious day locked at the back of closed doorways for an interview with the similar lawmakers past due closing month, didn’t have type phrases for the Republicans main the committee.

The committees have additionally demanded testimony from Ms. Page, issuing a subpoena for her to seem in non-public for an interview and dangerous her with contempt when she didn’t meet that time limit. Lawyers for Ms. Page stated she used to be satisfied to testify, however handiest after the F.B.I. allowed her to check her notes and related case recordsdata. Two Republican chairmen issued an ultimatum on Wednesday that Ms. Page both testify along Mr. Strzok on Thursday or seem in non-public on Friday.

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