Republican members of Congress are demanding answers from the Federal Bureau of Investigations after learning that five months of text messages between two FBI agents who worked on the Clinton email investigation and the probe into the Trump campaign are now missing.
“This latest revelation from the DOJ is outrageous, but not surprising. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page believed that then-candidate Donald Trump was a threat to this country and appeared to be taking steps, as sworn members of law enforcement, to subvert the will of the American people. Now, it seems that many of their text messages may have suspiciously disappeared,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said in a statement Monday.
“Few Americans would ever be allowed to offer up a specious excuse for losing information required for audit. Why should our government be any different? How is this different than the Hillary Clinton erased emails?” said Biggs, a Judiciary Committee member.
Fellow committee member Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) tweeted: “FBI Director Wray needs to provide an explanation for why the FBI deleted six months’ worth of Strozk-Page text messages sent during the Trump transition and early months of the Trump presidency. Was evidence about the anti-Trump ‘insurance policy’ deleted?”
FBI Director Wray needs to provide an explanation for why the FBI deleted six months’ worth of Strozk-Page text messages sent during the Trump transition and early months of the Trump presidency. Was evidence about the anti-Trump “insurance policy” deleted? https://t.co/XB38xOZCbJ
— Ron DeSantis (@RepDeSantis) January 21, 2018
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), also on the committee, tweeted that a second special counsel to look into the matter was needed “now”:
First the IRS destroyed emails pivotal to our investigation of their political targeting.
Now the FBI "failed to preserve" texts between Peter Strzok & Lisa Page following the '16 election.
The time for a second special counsel is now.https://t.co/BonrBlsJsB
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 21, 2018
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) seconded that call:
Unreal. We've been asking for the remaining text messages between anti-Trump FBI agents (and former Mueller team members), Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The FBI now says the texts are "missing."
If it wasn't already clear we need a second special counsel, it's abundantly clear now https://t.co/nvpNY4s4QV
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) January 22, 2018
Strzok and Page — who were reportedly engaged in an extramarital affair — had sent each other text messages during the 2016 campaign where they expressed loathing for Trump, support for Clinton, and discussed an “insurance policy” in the case of Trump’s win. Their texts also suggested they leaked to news media about the investigation.
Strzok oversaw the Clinton email investigation and oversaw the FBI’s initial investigation into the Trump campaign, which began July 2016. He also served on the special counsel with Page. Page left the team in July when her assignment ended, but Strzok was removed after the texts were discovered.
The Justice Department inspector general discovered their text messages while investigating whether the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation with political bias.
Hundreds of text messages between the two have since been handed over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is also investigating whether FBI political bias affected the Clinton investigation.
Its chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), received a letter on Friday from the FBI that said due to a technical glitch, text messages between Strzok and Page from between mid-December 2016 to May 17, 2017 — the day the special counsel was established — were lost.
As the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York noted, that period covered a number of critical events in the investigation of the Trump campaign. He noted:
A number of critical events in the Trump-Russia affair occurred between December 2016 and May 2017, including:
- Conversations between Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
- The completion and publication of the intelligence community assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- The briefing in which FBI director James Comey told President-elect Donald Trump about the Trump dossier.
- The president’s inauguration.
- The nomination and confirmation of new Justice Department leadership.
- Flynn’s interview with the FBI (conducted by Strzok).
- Comey’s assurances to Trump that he, Trump, was not under investigation.
- A variety of revelations, mostly in the Washington Post and New York Times, about various Trump figures under investigation.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe.
- The firing of top Obama Justice Department holdover Sally Yates.
- Trump’s tweet alleging he was wiretapped.
- Trump’s firing of Comey.
- And, finally, on May 17, 2017 — the final day of the missing texts — the appointment of Trump-Russia special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Biggs called the special counsel “tainted.”
“As I’ve maintained since last summer, Robert Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel is tainted. His position is clouded by a disgruntled former FBI Director’s potentially criminal leaks of government memos to influence an ongoing investigation,” he said.
“At every step of Congress’s attempts to provide Constitutional oversight to the DOJ and the FBI, we have been met with unparalleled resistance. My patience is wearing thin. The FBI is not an independent agency, yet its leaders appear to think they do not answer to Congress or the President. They are wrong. If they continue to lose or withhold requested information, they will soon experience the consequences that Congress can – and should – provide,” he said.
The House intelligence committee is due to release a memo that may detail how the FBI used the salacious and unverified Trump dossier to investigation and spy on the Trump campaign and is expected to name names.
Democrats on the committee voted against its release to other House members last week, but Republicans outnumbered them. More than 100 House members have viewed the memo and are calling for its release.