Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was questioned behind closed doors on Friday just hours after FBI agent Peter Strzok had been grilled in a raucous 10-hour public hearing, and Republicans said they learned new information from a witness who was able to talk more freely than Strzok.
Two Republican congressmen, Reps. John Ratcliffe of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida, characterized Page’s closed-door testimony as more forthcoming than Strzok’s, because she answered more questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as well as the Hillary Clinton probe.
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said they had learned new information that “has been a long time coming,” but he and the other lawmakers declined to provide details.
“There is significant new info she has provided,” Meadows said, adding that he wouldn’t discuss details unless transcripts of the interviews were released.
Like Strzok, Page said the political views she had expressed in anti-Donald Trump text messages did not affect her work at the FBI, lawmakers from both parties said.
Meadows called Page a “very credible witness,” and said she had been “falsely accused” of not wanting to cooperate with the committee, a charge that had been levied by his fellow Republicans and President Trump.
Republicans went so far as to even praise Page for her testimony after she had been threatened with contempt earlier in the week.
“I found Lisa Page to be far more credible than Strzok,” Gaetz said. “We did not see the smug attitude that we saw from Strozk.”
And in a sign that Republicans are not eager to replay the nasty Strzok hearing, GOP lawmakers signaled Friday that they were unwilling to force Page to testify publicly — despite earlier indications that they would.
“I think that at this point, public testimony is not on the horizon,” said Meadows, adding that a public hearing is “not something I would advocate for.”
Democrats seized on Friday’s new Mueller indictments to charge that Republicans were wasting time by focusing on Page and the Clinton email investigation when they should be investigating Russian election meddling.
“She’s an irrelevant actor in a sideshow,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said of Page.
Democrats said it was notable how much more subdued Friday’s interview was compared with the charged environment during Thursday’s public hearing with Strzok.
“It’s much more sedate, much more calm,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat. He added that it was a “situation where we can actually learn what’s going on and the witness can actually answer the question.”
“It’s a closed-door hearing,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, saying Thursday’s had been about “scoring points.”
Page appeared Friday, declining to speak to reporters as she entered the committee spaces, after House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, had threatened to hold her in contempt for defying a subpoena earlier in the week.
She is scheduled to return for additional questioning Monday.
On Thursday, Strzok testified publicly over a 10-hour span, during which Republicans and Democrats got into several shouting matches, including one particularly explosive moment after Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, asked Strzok did he look into his “wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page.”
The comment prompted howls from Democrats, including one who shouted, “You need your medication.”
But there were “no calls for medication today,” Krishnamoorthi said.
He said Republicans were pressing Page about the intent behind the text messages she had exchanged with Strzok, which included many anti-Trump missives, as well as a message in which Strzok had said “we’ll stop” Trump.
Strzok denied that his political views expressed in the texts affected his professional work on Thursday, and Page also said there was “no bias” affecting her conduct, according to Jackson Lee.
Strzok and Page had worked on the FBI’s Russia investigation and on the early days of Mueller’s special counsel team. Strzok was removed from the special counsel probe after the text messages were discovered last year, while Page had already left.
Several Republicans on the committee, including those who have threatened Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with contempt or impeachment, praised the indictment of the Russian officials Friday. But they argued they are doing important oversight work holding the FBI accountable for how it handled the Clinton and Russia investigations in 2016.
Meadows had said he had “lots of questions” for Page as he walked into the interview.
House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, who mixed it up with Strzok several times on Thursday, would not answer questions about Page or the Mueller indictment when he left the interview Friday.
The South Carolina Republican later issued a statement on the latest indictment, “As I have repeatedly said, it is clear, based on the evidence, Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her presidency had she prevailed.”