An embattled top FBI counterintelligence agent is in for hours of grilling from Congress on Thursday as he faces lawmakers eager to question him about alleged misconduct in the 2016 election investigations.
Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok played important roles in both the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was secretary of state and the investigation of Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential race now run by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller reassigned Strzok after the Justice Department discovered highly political text messages that he sent during the 2016 election cycle to another top FBI employee, lawyer Lisa Page.
Page told investigators she and Strzok were engaged in an extramarital affair, according to a Justice Department Inspector General's report about the Clinton email investigation, and they used their work devices to conceal that from their spouses.
That meant Justice Department investigators could access all their messages, including the ones in which they criticized Trump and appeared to discuss how they might use their powers to keep him from being elected.
The two were faulted by the official investigation into the conduct of the Clinton email inquiry. Page has since left the bureau but Strzok remains with the FBI, albeit removed from his old investigative job.
Republicans have cited Page's and Strzok's messages as evidence about what they call bias inside federal law enforcement and that conspirators launched the Russia investigation out of partisan animus.
Strzok has met with members of the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors but his hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday will be open.
Members of the House Oversight Committee also are scheduled to attend and question him.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., issued a subpoena to compel Page to talk to lawmakers Wednesday, but her attorney said she would not appear. Goodlatte blasted that decision on Wednesday, saying "none of her excuses hold water."
The leaders of the FBI and the Justice Department have defended the sum of their work and tried to distance themselves from the embarrassment caused by the discovery of the messages.
"We were deeply troubled by text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations," the Justice Department's inspector general wrote in its June report.
The Strzok-Page saga has also attracted the personal attention of the president, who has frequently commented on the ongoing scandal as evidence of a "witch hunt" against him.
Trump criticized the two again ahead of the House hearing in a Twitter post from his trip to Europe.
"Ex-FBI LAYER Lisa Page today defied a House of Representatives issued Subpoena to testify before Congress! Wow, but is anybody really surprised! Together with her lover, FBI Agent Peter Strzok, she worked on the Rigged Witch Hunt, perhaps the most tainted and corrupt case EVER!"