Newly released texts between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page show that they attempted to “get around” rules requiring the preservation of their exchanges which have revealed anti-Trump bias in the agency.
The texts were made public Thursday in a letter from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The correspondence, dated January 31, was sent by Committee Chair, Senator Ron Johnson.
Johnson cited the texts to justify a request, among other things, for all communications from Strzok, Page and a number of current and former FBI officials – including former director James Comey and former deputy director Andrew McCabe. He also requested the emails sent by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to then-President Barack Obama while Clinton was in the “territory of a sophisticated adversary.”
The texts exposed in the letter reveal that in August 2016, Page wrote that she was to get an Apple iPhone from the FBI’s IT director. Strzok responded: “Hot damn. I’m happy to pilot that… we get around our security/monitoring issues?”
“No, he’s proposing that we just stop following them. Apparently the requirement to capture texts came from omb [Office of Management and Budget], but we’re the only org (I’m told) who is following that rule. His point is, if no one else is doing it why should we,” Page replied.
The texts imply that Page and Strzok attempted to circumvent rules concerning official correspondence by using unofficial phones to communicate about official business. It also strongly suggests that other agencies routinely engage in this practice too.
The FBI informed Congress last month it had failed to preserve texts between Page and Strzok between December 2016 and May 2017. The messages were reportedly retrieved by the DOJ’s inspector-general, however.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched an investigation into the missing texts between Strzok and Page. The messages between the two employees, who were having an extra-marital affair, contain numerous references to their anti-Trump and pro-Clinton sentiments.
In one such exchange from August 2016, Page forwarded a Trump-related article to Strzok and wrote: “And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.”
As an employee of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Strzok had led the investigation into Trump since July 2016, and had previously been involved in the probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In May 2017, Strzok was brought on board special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, only to be reassigned to the FBI’s human resources department in July, after his texts with Page were discovered. The public was notified of the texts and Strzok’s demotion in December 2017.