DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The FBI's No. 2 official, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, will be testifying today before the House Intelligence Committee. McCabe's appearance behind closed doors comes as some Republicans are stepping up their criticism of the bureau and special counsel Robert Mueller's team, alleging what they say is an anti-Trump political bias. NPR's Ryan Lucas has been following this and joins us. Hey, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So Andrew McCabe - not exactly a household name. Why are lawmakers so interested in him?
LUCAS: Well - because of his job as deputy director, he is the number No. 2 official in the FBI, and that gives him a key role in kind of overseeing domestic and international investigations. And of course, two of the biggest investigations in the past couple years that we've seen have been the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server and the Russia investigation. So he's really been kind of at the center of two of these really big, really important, politically charged investigations. But it's also important to note here that he is not a political appointee. He is a career FBI official, and he's risen up through the ranks over the past 20 years.
GREENE: So the middle of political controversy - not always where a career official wants to be.
GREENE: Well - so he goes before a House committee today. It will be behind closed doors. But any idea what lawmakers are going to ask him?
LUCAS: Well, one big thing he's expected to be asked about is a senior FBI agent by the name of Peter Strzok, who's been in the news a lot lately. Republicans say that Strzok played a role in changing language in then-FBI Director James Comey's statement ending the Clinton email investigation.
Now, Strzok was also a member of the special counsel's Russia investigation, and Mueller removed him from his team after it emerged that Strzok had been sending politically charged text messages. And these are texts that Republican lawmakers say show political bias. They reference one text in particular that appears to reference a conversation that took place in McCabe's office in which Strzok talks about a, quote, "insurance policy." And Republican lawmakers haven't explained exactly what they fear here, but they have portrayed it as something sinister.
Now, the other big thing that Republicans are expected to ask about is this infamous Trump dossier. Republican lawmakers want to know what role, if any, that dossier played in the FBI's decision to open its Russia investigation.
GREENE: That's the dossier that was prepared by that former British spy, that there was damaging allegations about Trump. And the Republicans are suggesting that the FBI may have played some kind of role, so they're looking at that. They're looking at these text messages, and they're really just latching on to this to say - what? - that Mueller and the bureau are out to get Trump?
LUCAS: That's basically it, yes. Now, they've grabbed onto that. They're running with it. You've seen a lot of that sort of narrative in conservative media. Now, Strzok's emails - it has to be said - have certainly given them a lot of ammunition. In one, he called Trump an idiot. That certainly doesn't look good. But it's important to remember here that with all of the sort of political churning around this, the White House legal team says it is cooperating with the special counsel's office and the investigation. But the president's allies really have seized on these revelations and interpreted them as evidence that the investigation is slanted and not going to give the president a fair shake.
GREENE: They've also seized on this suggestion that Mueller's team may have improperly obtained some emails from Trump's transition team. A Trump transition lawyer has suggested that in a letter to Congress. What is that?
LUCAS: Well, basically, what you just said. The problem with it is that legal experts have questioned the arguments that the transition lawyers have made, saying that they're basically groundless. And the special counsel's office has said that it has done everything properly. But, you know, this is an argument that Republicans can lean on when raising questions about the investigation.
GREENE: All right, NPR's Ryan Lucas. Ryan, thanks.
LUCAS: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.