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At FBI agent hearing, top Dem displays 'guilty' posters of Mueller convictions

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with the leaders of the Baltic states

One of the subplots here has been Democrats' push to release the transcript of Strzok's previous, closed-door testimony. He and an FBI lawyer he sent the messages to briefly worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian Federation, but were dismissed from the team a year ago even though FBI agents are not prohibited from privately expressing political views. The committees ultimately voted to table the motion at the end of hearing.

For a brief moment, lawmakers floated the idea of Strzok having some company when he appears Thursday - as the committee offered Page a spot to testify at Thursday's hearing.

Strzok told lawmakers in his opening statement that he followed department protocol handling sensitive information about the extent of Russia's meddling in the USA election and the Trump team's potential role in it.

He said in his opening statement that his work has never been tainted by politics and the intense scrutiny he faces represents "just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's belt".

The controversial texts first came to light in December, when it was revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller dismissed Strzok from his team the previous summer upon learning of the messages.

At the US Capitol, one of the former top members of the special counsel team, Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Peter Strzok, was grilled by members of Congress over allegations of bias revealed in a series of text messages he exchanged with Lisa Page, a fellow Federal Bureau of Investigation employee with whom he was having an affair.

Peter Strzok opened the hearing with a short, yet powerful statement, bringing the President's own rhetoric into his message, and throwing it back into his face.

At the heart of GOP lawmakers' complaints are a series of texts from August 8, 2016, between Strzok and his alleged mistress, Department of Justice lawyer Lisa Page, in which Strzok wrote to Page, "We'll stop" a Trump presidency.

"You need your medication", said New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.

The texts included saying "we'll stop" Trump and also "F Trump".

"Let me underscore: These are not allegations, these are admissions, " Cummings said.

First, it would be highly unusual in this context to say "we" in referring to the electorate.

I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time in any of those texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. It simply couldn't happen.

Some Democrats applauded after he finished speaking. Both Trump and Russian Federation have denied any collusion or wrongdoing. The text and emails may have been discovered in May of 2017, but the bias existed and was manifest a year and a half before that.

Representative David Cicilline told Strzok he is being used as "a prop, so they can promote an narrative in an ongoing effort to distract from the serious investigation by the special counsel that is closing in on the Trump inner circle". "You deserve one. This has been an attack on you in a way to attack Mr. Mueller". Strzok says he never allowed personal opinions to taint his work. It sort of goes to the sort of rule that exists: you should put nothing in text or email that you are not comfortable seeing on the front page of the New York Times or on CNN's banner across the bottom of the screen there. Strzok replied: "No, he's not".

The Justice Department's inspector general has criticized Strzok and Page for creating the appearance of impropriety. But the report said it found no evidence of political bias in the FBI's decision to not pursue criminal charges against Clinton.

"Here are the officials who have already admitted their guilt". Strzok was later reassigned to a job in the FBI's human resources division.