Fitton: Judicial Watch Battles FBI for Anti-Trumper Text Messages

Peter Strzok and Lisa Page
U.S. Department of Justice/Ohio State University
Washington D.C

Here is a sliver of good news in Judicial Watch’s efforts to find out the truth about the extent of corruption infecting the senior ranks of the FBI, specifically in their lawsuit to get documents about “anti-Trump” senior FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

Judicial Watch was just informed by the Justice Department that, “the FBI plans to send letters to Peter Strzok and Lisa Page asking them to preserve agency records on their personal accounts and personal devices and requesting confirmation that they are doing so.” Judicial Watch made the preservation request to the FBI as part of their Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit for records of the two current and former FBI officials. (Page recently retired, but Mr. Strzok is still at the FBI.)

It’s promising news that the FBI reversed course. On May 2, the FBI wrote a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) saying it had not requested information from the personal email accounts of Strzok and Page:

[T]he FBI has not requested from Ms. Page or Mr. Strzok any information from their personal email accounts, nor as the FBI conducted searches of non-FBI-issued communications devices or non-FBI email accounts associated with Mr. Strzok or Ms. Page. The status report also details the FBI’s promise to try to preserve the Strzok-Page records from their personal devices.

What about the documents the FBI does have? A few days ago (May 21), U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the FBI to begin processing 13,000 pages of previously undisclosed emails exchanged exclusively between FBI officials Strzok and Page between February 1, 2015, and December 2017. The first 500 pages of records are to be processed by June 29, 2018. The court order requires that:

  1. the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) shall process the 500 pages of potentially responsive records and produce any responsive, non-exempt records to the plaintiff on or before June 29, 2018;
  2. after June 29, 2018, the FBI, on a monthly basis, shall process 500 pages of potentially responsive records and produce any responsive, non-exempt records to the plaintiff; and
  3. on September 1, 2018, and thereafter on a quarterly basis (once every three months), on the first day of the month (or, if the first falls on a weekend or holiday, the next business day), the parties shall file a joint status report advising the Court of the FBI’s progress in processing the request.

Just prior to the judge’s order, Judicial Watch filed a joint status report in federal court regarding the production of Strzok-Page documents. The report discloses how, between April 5 and May 4, 2018, the FBI processed only 35 pages of potentially responsive records identified as travel requests, authorizations, vouchers and expense reports for Strzok and Page, and less than half that material (16 pages) was released to JW.

The developments came in response to our January 2018 FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00154)) after it failed to respond to our December 4, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records of communications, including but not limited to, emails, text messages, and instant chats, between FBI official Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page;
  • All travel requests, travel authorizations, travel vouchers, and expense reports of Peter Strzok;
  • All travel requests, travel authorizations, travel vouchers, and expense reports of Lisa Page.

Strzok and Page were deeply involved in the Clinton email scandal and served on the Mueller investigation team. Strzok was reportedly removed from Mueller’s team in August and reassigned to a human resources position after it was discovered that he and FBI lawyer Page, who worked for former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and with whom Strzok was carrying on an extramarital affair, exchanged stridently pro-Clinton and anti-Trump text messages.

Strzok also reportedly oversaw the FBI’s interviews of former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn. He changed former FBI Director James Comey’s language about Hillary Clinton’s actions regarding her illicit email server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” and played a lead role in the FBI’s interview of Clinton. Strzok is suspected of being responsible for using the unverified dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant in order to spy on President Trump’s campaign.

The FBI has been slippery when it comes to records about the Clinton and Russia scandal fiascos, so it’s a good sign the Bureau is taking steps to make sure government records don’t go missing.

On the other hand, the FBI’s purposeful slow-walking of the Strzok-Page materials shows contempt for both transparency law and the public’s interest in figuring out how and why the FBI was politicized to target President Trump while protecting Hillary Clinton. FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should step up and speed up the release of these documents.

Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.

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