Minutes into lawmakers’ questioning of Peter Strzok, the FBI official under fire for anti-Donald Trump texts, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) threatened to hold Strzok in contempt for declining to answer Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy’s question about the FBI’s Russia probe.
Gowdy had asked how many people Strzok interviewed for the probe in the first week or so of the investigation. Strzok told Gowdy he was under instruction from the FBI not to answer questions about the ongoing Russian investigation.
Goodlatte jumped into to press Strzok to answer the question. Strzok continued to cite the FBI’s instructions.
“Mr. Strzok, please be advised that you can either comply with the committee’s directive to answer the question or refuse to do so. The latter of which will place you at risk of a contempt citation and potential criminal liability,” Goodlatte said. “Do you understand that?”
Democrats leapt to Strzok’s defense, pointing out that Justice Department policy prohibits FBI personnel commenting publicly on ongoing investigations. When Strzok asked if he could consult with the FBI’s counsel, Republicans said he could only consult with his own personal lawyers, prompting more heated argument with the committees’ Democrats.
As Strzok continued to decline to answer Gowdy’s question, Goodlatte brought up the threat of contempt again.
“Mr. Strzok, in a moment we’ll continue with the hearing, but based on your refusal to answer the question at the conclusion of the day we’ll be recessing the hearing and you will be subject to recall to allow the committee to consider proceeding with a contempt citation,” he said.