The Federal Bureau of Investigation has lost about five months of text messages between two top officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who openly disparaged then-candidate Donald Trump while working on the Clinton email investigation and the Russia probe investigation, according to a top Republican senator.
The officials in question are Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — the two senior FBI officials who had texted each other hundreds of text messages in which they shared how much they loathed Trump and spoke of an “insurance policy” in the case of Trump’s election.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) revealed in a January 20, 2018, letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that the FBI said their technical system failed to preserve texts exchanged between Strzok and Page between December 14, 2016, though May 17, 2017.
“The loss of records from this period is concerning because it is apparent from other records that Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page communicated frequently about the investigation,” Johnson said in his letter.
Michael Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, astutely noted that May 17, 2017, was the date that the Special Counsel was convened.
What a weird coincidence! “Misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades” destroyed the Strzok-Page text messages during a period that ended on May 17, the very day Mueller started. How bizarre is that? It's almost as if it was planned that way.
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 21, 2018
The inspector general first found the texts between Strzok and Page while investigating whether political bias played a role either in the Clinton email investigation or the investigation into the Trump campaign.
Strzok was deputy chief of counterintelligence, played a leading role on the Clinton investigation, and reportedly is the one who watered down language that could have held criminal implications for Clinton. He oversaw the Trump investigation when it was opened in July 2016.
Strzok and Page were assigned to the special counsel investigation, but after the Justice Department inspector general found the texts, Strzok was promptly removed. Page had left weeks earlier, reportedly because her assignment to the special counsel had ended. Strzok was engaged in an extramarital affair with Page.
Johnson said in the letter that he learned of the missing texts on January 19 after the FBI handed over an additional 384 texts to the committee.
According to Johnson, Strzok and Page discussed speeding up the investigation into Clinton once it became clear that Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee.
“Now the pressure really starts to finish [midyear exam],” Strzok wrote, using the secret name for the Clinton email investigation. “It sure does,” Page replied.
Johnson also revealed texts between Strzok and Page that showed they discussed efforts to water down then-FBI Director James Comey’s statement on the Clinton email investigation.
An original statement was going to reveal that Clinton wrongly used her personal email in an exchange with “the president while Secretary Clinton was on the territory of such an adversary.”
“Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email,” it said.
However, on June 30, 2016, “the president” was replaced with “another senior government official,” Strzok notified Page. The final statement scrubbed the whole reference.
Strzok and Page suggested that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew that there would be no charges against Clinton even before they interviewed her and other key witnesses.
After Lynch announced that she would rely on the recommendation of Comey’s determination in the Clinton email investigation, due to the impropriety of her meeting with Bill Clinton on a tarmac, Strzok texted Page that her statement “looks like hell.”
Page responded: “And yeah, it’s a real profile in couragw [sic], since she knows no charges will be brought.”
At that time, Clinton, along with other key witnesses, had not yet been interviewed by the FBI.
Johnson is now asking the FBI to follow up with more details about the lost records and about whether it has conducted searches of non-government issued devices.
Other lawmakers are demanding answers.
House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said in a tweet Sunday: “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?”
Doran tweeted: “People must go to jail. It’s critical. Our gov will not regain legitimacy unless the public believes that elite crimes get punished. And by ‘jail’ I do not mean a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Being surrounded by academics can feel like incarceration, but it’s not jail.”
House intelligence committee staffers have put together a four-page classified memo that reportedly explains how the FBI relied upon the salacious and unverified Trump dossier to investigate the Trump campaign. That is expected to be released in the upcoming weeks.