On Thursday, Republican lawmakers grilled FBI agent Peter Strzok about whether his personal antipathy towards President Donald Trump—revealed in a string of text messages with his FBI colleague Lisa Page—influenced his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The exchanges grew heated, with Strzok forced to defend the integrity of the FBI against attacks by GOP lawmakers like Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
Throughout the hearing, Republicans threatened Strzok with contempt for refusing to answer questions about the ongoing Mueller investigation.
“I will not, based on direction of the FBI … answer that question, because it goes to matters which are related to the ongoing investigations being undertaken by the special counsel’s office,” Strzok said.
In response, Sen. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) snapped, ““Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question.”
He also threatened the FBI agent with contempt of Congress.
While it sounds dramatic, a contempt charge is not likely to lead to anything—something Peter Strzok is no doubt acutely aware of.
A contempt of Congress charge only has teeth if the U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C. decides to pursue the charges, which they tend not to do. And that’s only if the contempt charge makes it past committee and past the House.
“It makes for a great show and great sensational headlines,” Kurt Bardella, former Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, tells Raw Story. “Contempt is a great buzz word, but functionally it never leads to anything substantial.”
Bardella points out that the GOP’s political theater in this case serves to obscure the real issues at stake.
“It further illustrates how for Republicans this is all about public relations and politics and not what they’re supposed to be doing, which is finding fact and truth,” Bardella says.
Raw Story has reached out to the U.S. Attorney for comment and will update accordingly.