Today I got obsessed. Then, angry. After that, more obsessed. And then, angrier still.
What got my emotions so fired up was FBI deputy assistant director Peter Strzok's compelling testimony before a House hearing.
The Republicans in charge of the hearing convened by the House Judiciary and Oversight committees sought to undermine the Mueller investigation by making Strzok into a rogue anti-Trump FBI agent, but anyone with an open mind who watched this debacle would have to conclude that they failed abysmally.
Strzok is notorious for exchanging text messages with another FBI employee, Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair.
Some of the messages were deeply critical of Trump, a sentiment shared by well over half of American voters, judging by the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.
As was noted over and over by Strzok and House Democrats, a Justice Department Inspector General report found no evidence that Strzok exhibited any official bias in favor of Hillary Clinton or against Donald Trump in the course of his FBI work on investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Clinton's email server.
But Republicans ignored this inconvenient fact, asserting over and over in the total absence of any evidence that his animus toward Trump influenced his FBI work.
I watched a good share of the hearing on my iPhone via a Washington Post video feed. It was both astoundingly entertaining and deeply disturbing. I didn't need any convincing on this, but it solidified my belief that our country is on the knife-edge between democracy and authoritarianism.
Heroes like Strzok, who has conducted anti-espionage investigations at the FBI for over 20 years, if I recall correctly, are the good guys fighting to preserve our democratic institutions against attacks from Russia and other totalitarian countries.
Meanwhile, Trump is acting to undermine our nation's longstanding bipartisan commitment to democracy, open and fair elections, and the protection of our American way of life from enemies foreign and domestic. Which, judging by how GOP House members acted today, includes almost every Republican member of Congress.
Yeah, I realize that's a harsh statement. But it's absolutely true.
The only legislators I heard defending the FBI, the Mueller investigation into Russian election tampering, and continued efforts to fight foreign meddling in the 2018 midterms were Democrats. Republicans have become cowardly Trump sycophants, scared to speak up in favor of law enforcement, democracy, and the values the United States has had since our nation's founding.
Today I kept waiting to hear a single Republican make sense, to have the guts to resist their mindless desire to shield Trump from being held accountable for possible illegal acts, to put country above party.
I listened to the hearing for way longer than I'd intended at first, because I found it hard to believe that conservative members of Congress could be so blind to their refusal to see things with Strzok and the FBI as they are, rather than how they imagine them to be.
Eventually I shut off the Washington Post video feed, because I got tired of the crap being spewed from the mouths of Republicans that had no basis in reality.
Strzok came across as calm, honest, open, willing to admit mistakes when this was warranted, proudly defending himself when attacks on his professionalism crossed the line from valid questioning to partisan hatchet jobs. I don't see how anyone could watch Strzok's performance today as anything other than a proud FBI agent responding to disgusting political posturing with great poise and honesty.
Read Strzok's opening remarks. His written words don't convey the emotional persuasiveness that his testimony today did, but they're convincing nonetheless. Below is a key excerpt.
In it Strzok points out that if he truly wanted to prevent Trump from becoming president, he could have leaked information about the FBI investigation into possible connections of the Trump campaign with Russian election meddling.
But he didn't do this, showing more professionalism that Jim Comey did, when he twice made statements about the Clinton email server investigation shortly before election day, likely costing Clinton the presidency. Strzok said:
I testify today with significant regret, recognizing that my texts have created confusion and caused pain for people I love. Certain private messages of mine have provided ammunition for misguided attacks against the FBI, an institution I love deeply and have served proudly for more than 20 years.
But having worked in national security for two decades and proudly served in the U.S. Army, those opinions were expressed out of deep patriotism and an unyielding belief in our great American democracy. At times my criticism was blunt, but despite how it’s been characterized, it was not limited to one person or one party – I criticized various countries and politicians, including Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders, then-candidate Trump and others.
But let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.
This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference, and for every other investigation I’ve worked on. It is not who I am, and it is not something I would ever do. Period.
I understand that my sworn testimony will not be enough for some people. After all, Americans are skeptical of anything they hear out of Washington. But the fact is, after months of investigations, there is simply no evidence of bias in my professional actions.
There is, however, one extraordinarily important piece of evidence supporting my integrity, the integrity of the FBI, and our lack of bias.
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.
That’s what FBI agents do every single day, and it’s why I am so proud of the Bureau. And I am particularly proud of the work that I, and many others, did on the Clinton email investigation. Our charge was to investigate it competently, honestly, and independently, and that is exactly what happened.
I’m also proud of our work on the Russian interference investigation. This is an investigation into a direct attack by a foreign adversary – and it is no less so simply because it was launched against our democratic process rather than against a military base. This is something that all Americans, of all political persuasions, should be alarmed by.
In the summer of 2016, we had an urgent need to protect the integrity of an American Presidential election from a hostile foreign power determined to weaken and divide the United States of America. This investigation is not politically motivated, it is not a witch hunt, it is not a hoax.