House and Senate committees are investigating whether FBI agents who led the Russia investigation improperly leaked to news media, according to a report.
In text messages reviewed by The Hill, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanged a series of texts shortly before Election Day 2016, that suggests they knew in advance about a Wall Street Journal article, and discussed how to pretend finding it and sharing with colleagues.
“Article is out, but hidden behind paywall so can’t read it,” Page texted Strzok on Oct. 24, 2016, according to the report.
“Wsj? Boy that was fast,” Strzok texted back. “Should I ‘find’ it and tell the team?”
“I can get it like I do every other article that hits any Google News alerts, seriously,” Strzok texted, adding he did not want his team hearing about the article “from someone else.”
The text messages were first uncovered by the Justice Department inspector general, who is investigating whether the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation and the bureau’s counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign with political bias.
Strzok played a key role in those investigations, and served on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team before the text messages were found and he was kicked off in the summer.
Page, with whom Strzok was having an extramarital affair, had also served on the special counsel team, but had left before the text messages were discovered. Investigators also found that the two had discussed in FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s office an “insurance plan” to thwart Trump’s election.
The Hill also reviewed nearly three dozen texts where the two discussed articles, tried to track down information about a specific New York Times reporter, or opined about leaked information in stories they fretted were “super specific.”
It’s not clear whether then-FBI Director James Comey authorized the leaks, although he arranged some of his own, by creating memos of his conversations with President Trump and leaking them to a friend to give to the news media after he left the FBI for the purpose of prompting a special counsel.
House intelligence committee investigators are also looking into a contact with news media by DOJ senior official Andrew Weissman in April, shortly before the special counsel was convened. Weissman is currently Mueller’s deputy, and had attended Hillary Clinton’s election party, and praised former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to implement Trump’s travel ban.
In another string of text messages five days before the election, Page alerted Strzok to a Washington Post story about a timeline in the Clinton email investigation, and references a conversation she had with FBI chief of staff James Rybicki about the article.
“Sorry, Rybicki called. Time line article in the post (sic) is super specific and not good. Doesn’t make sense because I didn’t have specific information to give.”
A few days earlier, Strzok had texted Page about another article, suggesting it was anti-FBI. “Yep, the whole tone is anti-Bu. Just a tiny bit from us,” he texted.
Page texted she had seen the article, and that it “makes me feel WAY less bad about throwing him under the bus to the forthcoming CF article.”
They also discussed tracking down New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo’s address and spouse’s job. Apuzzo had reported on numerous developments in the Russia case.
“We got a list of kids with their parents’ names. How many Matt Apuzzo’s (sic) could there be in DC,” Page texted Strzok. “Showed J a picture, he said he thinks he has seen a guy who kinda looks like that, but always really schlubby. I said that sounds like every reporter I have ever seen.”
It’s not clear who “J” is.
A minute later, Page added: “Found what I think might be their address, too.”
Strzok responded, “He’s TOTALLY schlubby. Don’t you remember?”
Page texted she found information on Apuzzo’s wife: “Found address looking for her. Lawyer.”
Strzok also warned Page against using the work phone to track down information on the reporter. “I wouldn’t search on your work phone … no idea what that might trigger.”
“Oops. Too late,” she responded.
They also texted about the opening of Trump’s new hotel in Washington.
“That’s one place I hope I never stay in,” Page texted.
Strzok texted back: “Agreed. I hope it fails horribly.”
They also said an article about FBI agents unhappy about the outcome of the Clinton case was “stupid,” called Fox anchor Chris Wallace a “turd,” and talked about then-FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly after one of the presidential debates.
“Vaguely satisfying to see Megyn Kelly (who had Botox and looks HORRIBLE) utterly going after Trump,” he said.