Republicans tried to humiliate FBI agent Peter Strozk. It backfired spectacularly.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Before stepping down in August 2017, FBI agent Peter Strzok led Hillary Clinton's email investigation, and later led the bureau's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He's also become a target of Republicans for unearthed text messages that show him and his then-partner criticizing President Trump and dismissing his chances of winning the White House. That's led some, including the president himself, to assert that Strzok was derelict in his duty.


On July 12, Strzok appeared before a congressional committee where Republicans tried to corner him. But they didn't realize what he'd do next.

Strzok gave an impassioned two-minute speech in which he explained why the claims against him are harmful to American democracy and those who work to defend it.

Strzok didn't deny that he's no fan of Trump, but he made it clear he never brought those feelings into work. "I can assure you, at no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into any realm of any action I took," he said.

He turned the spotlight away from himself and placed it on his colleagues.

"This isn't just me sitting here. You don't have to take my word for it," he said, insisting that even if he tried to do something improper to affect the 2016 election against Trump or another candidate, "they would not tolerate any improper behavior in me anymore than I would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the FBI."

He wasn't suggesting the FBI or any government agency is above criticism. However, he did say that accusing them of meddling in our elections — an accusation made by both Clinton and Trump supporters — is going a step too far.

"The suggestion that it is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI, deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive," Strzok said.  

The whole thing backfired on his accusers. On his show Thursday night, Jimmy Kimmel riffed on the testimony, joking that "when you see some of them actually speak, it's shocking. They desperately want to use this to discredit the whole investigation."

All government officials should be held accountable, but attacking people to score political points is bad for democracy.

In just over two minutes, Strzok made the stakes clear: It's not about one person or even one election. With all the challenges we collectively face as a nation, we'll be ill-equipped to succeed if we're busy tearing each other down.

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