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Michael A. Cohen

In Peter Strzok hearing, House GOP loses all connection to reality

FBI deputy assistant director Peter Strzok testifies before a House Judiciary Committee joint hearing on oversight of FBI and Department of Justice actions surrounding the 2016 election in Washington on Thursday.
FBI deputy assistant director Peter Strzok testifies before a House Judiciary Committee joint hearing on oversight of FBI and Department of Justice actions surrounding the 2016 election in Washington on Thursday.Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

While most of you were at work and doing your jobs with professionalism and courtesy on Thursday, the US House of Representatives was doing the opposite.

The House Oversight and Judiciary Committees’ interrogation/filleting of FBI agent and favored Donald Trump punching bag Peter Strzok was more than just a dispiriting national embarrassment. It was yet one more indication of how the House GOP’s tribalistic devotion to President Trump has turned them into useful idiots for America’s enemies.

Strzok, a high-ranking FBI official who was involved in both the Hillary Clinton e-mail and Russia inquiries, has become the GOP’s white whale — and a tool for them to delegitimize the entire Russia investigation.


To be sure, Strzok brought some of this on himself. He conducted an illicit affair with a co-worker, Lisa Page, and sent her multiple texts in which he bad-mouthed Trump and suggested that he would take steps to stop him from becoming president.

Republicans spent hours yesterday going over these facts — repeatedly bringing up Strzok most incendiary texts one mind-numbing time after another. Strzok was continually accused of showing bias toward candidate Trump and trying to influence the Russia investigation . . . but to what end remains frustratingly unclear.

As Strzok noted in his opening statement, “In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

If Strzok truly wanted to end Trump’s candidacy, he could have done it with one phone call to a reporter. He didn’t. End of story. What else is there to say?

Yet that never stopped Republicans, one after the other, from practically falling over themselves trying to make something insidious out of the fact that Strzok didn’t like Trump. However, in 2016 (as is the case today), a lot of Americans felt the way Strzok did. They loathed Trump and some of them said so, in harsh terms, during texting conversations.


Indeed, Strzok claimed that his messages criticizing Trump came after Trump attacked the Khans, a Gold Star family who had lost their son in Iraq and spoke against the GOP nominee at the Democratic National Convention

‘‘My presumption,” Strzok said, “based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States.”

A lot of Americans thought that at the time and saw Trump’s vicious attack on the Khans as one that would certainly doom his candidacy. But, as we know, 62 million Americans disagreed.

Yet, the very good reasons why Strzok might have had antipathy toward the president was of little interest to House Republicans, who seemed genuinely baffled by the idea that Strzok could have personal opinions about the president but still do his job in a professional unbiased manner. Since they have reduced every element of our national discourse to us vs. them tribalistic political warfare, the notion of someone acting without prejudice and nefarious intent is a concept that appears to be foreign to them.

But the real problem here is that in their zeal to defend a Republican president who may have colluded with a foreign power to win the 2016 election, the House GOP has lost all connection to reality.


They are spending more time attacking the FBI for investigating Russian electoral interference than they are actually investigating Russian electoral interference. As several Democrats on the panel noted, the oversight committee has devoted almost no time to looking at ways to safeguard future US elections against Russian interference. But it still found the time to spend hours grilling Strzok.

This is what the Trump Era has wrought: a Congress more focused on carrying water for a president who have may committed multiple crimes and certainly violated long-standing political norms to win the White House than protecting America’s democratic institutions from foreign interference. We’re past the point of wondering whether America can survive a Trump presidency: The real question is whether we can survive Republican control of Washington.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.