(CNSNews.com) - Under friendly questioning from a fellow anti-Trumper, FBI Agent Peter Strzok told Congress he's "done nothing wrong," then quickly admitted he was "sorry" for the text messages he exchanged with Lisa Page -- "and how they've been used."
"You're here and you're not taking the Fifth," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told Strzok.
"That's correct," Strzok said.
"Did you consider taking the Fifth?" Swalwell asked the FBI's former top counter-intelligence agent who was involved in an extra-marital affair with Page and whose stated bias against Trump and Trump supporters has brought discredit on the agency that employed him for more than 20 years.
"I've done nothing wrong," Strzok told Swalwell, explaining why he did not plead the Fifth:
"Uh, let me rephrase that," he quickly added with a nervous laugh.
I am sorry. I am sorry for these texts and the way they've been used, for the harm and hurt they've caused my family, for the perception of people in the public, and I am -- I am sorry and deeply regretful for that.
But when it comes -- that's personal acceptance of responsibility that I take, and I need and am working to make right. But when it comes to official conduct, when it comes to any action which would violate a law or crime, absolutely, I’ve never done that and have no need to take the Fifth.
Strzok says FBI allows 'de minimus use' of its cell phones
A short time later, in an exchange with Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), Strzok admitted that the 50,000-or-so text messages he exchanged with Page have tarnished the reputation of the FBI.
Strzok also conceded that his FBI phone, from which the tens of thousands of text messages were sent, was "funded by the public" and was "in service of the public."
Ross, reading from the DOJ ethics handbook, noted that "Employees shall protect and conserve federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities."
Strzok, defensive, told Ross: "I would tell you FBI policy allows the use of phones for personal, de minimis (minor or minimal) use."
"Would you say de minimis?" Ross snorted.
Strzok added, "FBI agents can send 100 billion texts or one text and they would get billed the same." (Ross had not asked about billing. He was asking about the propriety of using government property for personal ends.)
Strzok insisted that his use of an FBI cell phone to send personal and sometimes politically charged messages to his lover on FBI time "was terrible judgment" but "protected speech" nevertheless.
"I am deeply regretful for those texts," Strzok told Ross. "I wrote them. I know it. I know what has been done with them. At the same time, I will tell you, Sir, the FBI allowed -- there's an expectation that those texts are private. The Bureau allows me or any FBI employee to text my priest, to text my doctor...in the expectation that those are not going to be made public. I had no idea that this was going to happen, and darn, if I knew, I never would have done it, for sure."