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Peter Strzok hearing. TRANSCRIPT: 7/12/2018, The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Jerrold Nadler; Robert William Goodlatte; Ted Lieu; Mark Walker; James Jordan; Jamie Raskin; Matt Gaetz; Peter Strzok

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 12, 2018 Guest: Jerrold Nadler; Robert William Goodlatte; Ted Lieu; Mark Walker; James Jordan; Jamie Raskin; Matt Gaetz; Peter Strzok

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: The baton is yours, sir.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Appreciate it, Chuck. We have been watching it as well. Thank you very much.

We will continue the coverage of what has been a dramatic hearing day on Capitol Hill with hours left, we re told. And tonight, as Chuck was just saying, I am joined by the top Democrat at the hearing from the Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler is the ranking member. And he stepped out to speak with me.

And let me catch you up here on what is going on. The hearing intense from the start, Democratic staffers hoisted pictures you can see there, to bring the thing to its opening. There`s basically photos as you can tell of people who pled guilty in this case that led Democrats to say this is no witch-hunt.

Meanwhile , Peter Strzok has been breaking his silence. And he is defending not only himself, we are going to show you here today, his defense of the Mueller probe he was once part of.


PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: This investigation is not politically motivated. It is not a witch-hunt. It is not a hoax.


MELBER: That was his statement. But Republicans has fired up because they argue that Strzok`s poor judgment, it does indeed casts the entire probe in doubt.



STRZOK: My point, sir.

GOWDY: Did you write that?

STRZOK: I did write that, sir.

GOWDY: OK. Were you under duress. Your testimony is Bob Mueller didn`t kick you off because of the content of a text, he kicked you off about appearance he was worried about it.

STRZOK: It was not my understanding he kicked me off because of bias, that it was done based on appearance. If you want to represent which he said accurately, I am happy to answer that question. But I don`t appreciate what was originally said being changed.

GOWDY: I don`t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.


MELBER: Now, those messages in question is Strzok privately texting with an FBI lawyer, and they both critical of Trump. They were engaged as well in a relationship. Now they called Trump an idiot, a disaster, and said and this has become a matter of some debate, but they would quote "stop Trump from becoming President."


STRZOK: It was in response to a series of events that included then candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero, and my presumption based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be President of the United States. It was in no way unequivocally any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate.


MELBER: And things got quite fiery this morning. Congressman Nadler going on the attack and telling the Republican chairman he was badgering this FBI agent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you objecting to the question, if so, please state your objection.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Mr. Chairman, I object. The gentleman does not have standing to object.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No point of order.

NADLER: We have a problem with this policy, we should take it up with the FBI, not badger Mr. Strzok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman`s point of order is not well taken.

NADLER: It is right on point.



MELBER: And congressman Jerrold Nadler taking a break from the hearing to join us live tonight.

What are we hearing today? And is this hearing useful?

NADLER: Well, this hearing is just a big show by the Republicans to help the President as the walls close in, walls close in - as the world of the investigation close in on him. And they are trying to use the text messages of the private political opinions of Mr. Strzok to try to discredit the integrity and the credibility of the investigation.

And they are asking him, and remember, he was removed from the investigation very early on, as soon as Mueller learned about his text messages, and he hasn`t been part of it. But they are insisting on asking him as they did insist on asking deputy attorney general Rosenstein questions they know he can`t answer, questions about an ongoing investigation, an ongoing criminal investigation which the FBI lawyer instructs him not to answer. And if he doesn`t answer, then they threaten to hold him in contempt. And if he does answer, that will hurt the integrity of the investigation, it may help give information directly to the President`s defense team as Rudy Giuliani has already suggested.

But the point is the investigation, they are trying to use this to discredit the investigation, to poison the jury pool, the American people, against whatever the investigation comes up with. And the point of the investigation is although the President is calling it a witch-hunt and Republicans in Congress are doing everything to discredit it, no one is defending it. Because all we really know about the investigation is that there have been no leaks from it which is proper.

They haven`t been saying we are doing a good job because, or we know there are the court filings. We know there have been 20 indictments, mostly of people close to the President or his campaign. We know there have been I think five guilty pleas by people close to the President or his campaign. And we know there had been various court filings. And that`s all we know. And all we should know.

But the President through his tweets and Republicans through trying to throw mud against Mr. Page who is really a minor actor in this are trying to discredit, to detract from what we know about the investigation which is the indictments and to discredit whatever they may come up with when they issue a report.

MELBER: Yes. I think you were referring to Mr. Strzok and Miss Page.


MELBER: When you talk about whether it is done properly or not, there`s another dramatic moment, where your counterpart, you are the top Democrat on this committee, the top Republican Chairman Goodlatte appeared to say that the witness couldn`t discuss matters with the FBI counsel. Let me play that for viewers.


STRZOK: As you know, counsel for the FBI has directed me not to answer questions about the on-going investigation. As you also know, counsel for the FBI is sitting here behind me. May I consult with them?

REP. ROBERT WILLIAM GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: You may consult with your own counsel.

STRZOK: I may not consult with the FBI counsel?

GOODLATTE: Only with your own counsel.

NADLER: Mr. Chairman, there is no basis for that. He can consult with the FBI counsel. He is an FBI employee.

GOODLATTE: The gentleman is not recognized.

NADLER: And the chairman is not being proper.


MELBER: I guess you were not recognized there. But for the sake of transparency, you are recognized here, sir. What were you getting at and what was the chairman trying to do?

NADLER: Well, it was rather pointless of the chairman because Mr. Strzok`s counsel was sitting next to the FBI counsel, so she or he just leaned over and one told the other and then his counsel told him.

But the point is that as an employee of the FBI, FBI policy, justice department policy has been for many years. We have a letter to the committee in 2000 from the then deputy attorney general saying we cannot comment on active criminal investigations. At the end of the criminal investigation then you can get materials, you can look into it, but you cannot comment, Mr. Strzok cannot comment, nobody in the FBI can comment on an active criminal investigation because it would undermine the investigation. It might jeopardize secret FBI informants. It might give potential defendants information which they shouldn`t have until later. It might undermine the integrity of the investigation. Therefore, he was instructed not to answer questions about the ongoing investigation.

And the Republicans tried to put him in position like deputy attorney general Rosenstein two weeks ago, in the position of saying either you violate long-standing policy and proper norms by talking about things you shouldn`t talk about, namely the ongoing criminal investigation, or we`ll hold you in contempt. And that`s highly improper. And again, it is all designed to create an artificial fight about something that ultimately is not important which is whether he was -- Mr. Page, Mr. Strzok, rather, was biased or not, even though the inspector general found that any opinions or biases he had were not reflected in any decisions made by the FBI or by the justice department, and he was removed from the Mueller probe early on as soon as Mueller found out about the texts.

But they are using this to try to take attention from the Mueller investigation and discredit the Mueller investigation to throw a lot of mud there so when the Mueller investigation comes out with whatever it does come out with, if it is not favorable to the President, they will have a lot of people, they will have poisoned the jury pool.

As Rudy Giuliani said, ultimately this could come to a judgment by the American people, should we impeach the President or not, et cetera, and they want to discredit what reports may come out when they don`t know what it will be, when nobody knows what it will be yet.

MELBER: As for Mr. Strzok, I mean, is your position basically that what he said was stupid, but he didn`t do anything wrong or what he said was fine? Because the thought experiment that Republicans are asking Americans to consider tonight is if an official said these things about Barack Obama or pick your favorite President, it might upset a lot of people around the country, regardless. Go ahead.

NADLER: I asked Mr. Strzok. I said you have been in the FBI 22 years. You know a lot of people. Were there other FBI agents with a low opinion of Donald Trump? Yes.

Were there other FBI agents with a terrible opinion of Hillary Clinton and hoped Trump would win the election? Yes, he said.

Did any of this on your part or on their part effects decisions for the investigation? No.

And the inspector general found that none of these things effected decisions made by the investigation. And Mr. Strzok was not in position to make such decisions on his own in any event. He was one of a number of people. And frankly people are entitled, even federal employees, even FBI agents are entitled to their private opinions. They are entitled to tell their lovers their private opinions as long as they don`t let it effect any decisions made by the FBI. And there`s no evidence whatsoever that any opinion or bias by Mr. Strzok or anybody holding the other opinion effected any of the decisions made. In any event, none of this is relevant to the ongoing investigation because he was removed from the investigation at the beginning.

MELBER: I want to play a question you posed that cuts to the heart of this, and is easy to forget why we are in such a unique period right now and his answer from earlier today for viewers who may have been at work or not seen it. Here it is.


NADLER: How frequently does the FBI investigate a conspiracy between a Presidential candidate or campaign and hostile foreign power?

STRZOK: This is the first one I can remember in my lifetime.

NADLER: Is it fair to say our country faced and is possibly still facing a grave threat from a hostile foreign power?

STRZOK: It is.


MELBER: What are you getting at there as the larger stakes apart from the individual witness?

NADLER: Well, the larger stake is that we know, all our intelligence agencies tell us, the bipartisan Senate intelligence committee said the same thing last week, that the Russian government attempted to interfere with our election to help Mr. Trump`s election and to hurt Hillary Clinton`s election. This we know.

We are also told by our intelligence agencies that they are attempting and will continue to attempt to affect our the 2018 elections. And we also know from testimony before the Senate that when the director of national intelligence was asked have you gotten instructions from the administration to do anything to help protect the integrity of midterm elections from Russian intention to interfere, the answer was no.

And certainly what Mr. Strzok was saying, and it is obviously correct, is that when a hostile foreign power is trying to interfere with the integrity of the very way we govern ourselves, with the integrity of our elections, that`s a high priority, ought to be a high priority to deal with.

MELBER: Congressman Nadler, I appreciate you taking time out of the room. I know that there are many members in there and this has been many hours and we are, well, I will close by asking. I`m told it could go as late as 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight? What do you know?

NADLER: Could be, depending how many stay top ask their five minutes of questions.

MELBER: Understood. So we appreciate you making some time on THE BEAT to explain your perspective. Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

And what I want to do now is go directly back into the hearing where Congressman Ted Lieu is discussing this with Mr. Strzok. Let`s listen in for a moment.



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