WASHINGTON – Thursday's House Judiciary Committee hearing featuring testimony from embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok erupted into absolute chaos shortly after opening statements.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was the first to question the agent, asking Strzok how many people had been interviewed in the Russia probe from July 31-Aug. 8.
Strzok declined to answer, saying that FBI counsel instructed him not to answer questions about an ongoing investigation.
This set off pandemonium, as lawmakers exchanged heated barbs and bickered over hearing rules.
"Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the committee chairman.
Ranking minority member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) interjected, "I object."
"The gentleman does not have standing to object," Goodlatte fired back.
Nadler eventually was allowed to speak by stating a point of order.
"This demand puts Mr. Strzok in an impossible position," Nadler said. "He is still an employee of the FBI. And FBI Counsel has instructed him not to answer the question. If we have a problem with this policy, we should take it up with the FBI, not badger Mr. Strzok."
"The gentleman's point of order is not well taken," Goodlatte said.
Strzok's Anti-Trump Text Messages
Strzok's anti-Trump text messages took center stage and caused congressional leaders to question Strzok on his partisan bias over the course of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton's use of her email server.
Strzok exchanged troubling text messages with FBI attorney, Lisa Page.
Page and Strzok both worked on the FBI investigation into Clinton's emails and, later, on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
"There's no room for personal belief. It's something culturally that doesn't occur," Strzok told lawmakers.
Strzok said that while the texts reflected his personal beliefs at the time, they did not "ever enter into the realm of any action I took."
Strzok noted that there are numerous procedures and guidelines in place at the FBI to stop such instances of agents who are acting in any way other than an official capacity.
"When I tell you that I personally what I believe and what I did, I understand why people may have doubts. But look at the entirety of the rest of the organization of all the things that are in place," he added.
Strzok was asked if he ever thought of recusing himself from the investigation.
"Muller never told me why I was being removed, but it had nothing to do with the text messages," he replied.
Strzok says a text message suggesting that he would stop then-candidate Trump from being president was written late at night, and "in no way suggested that I or the FBI would take any action" to intervene in Trump's election.
"Any suggestion that me, the FBI, would have taken any action to improperly impact the electoral process, I take great offense and disagreement about what it was or wasn't," said Strzok.
Bannon Subpeona Vote
Meanwhile, the House broke questioning to hold a 5-minute long vote to table a motion made by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) to subpoena former Trump aide Steve Bannon over his refusal to answer lawmakers' questions, similar to threats Strzok received during Thursday's hearing.
The motion was eventually tabled.