More messages relating to one of the biggest potential scandals since Watergate have emerged. Text messages between FBI personnel Peter Strzok and Lisa Page have reignited the scandal surrounding the exoneration of Hillary Clinton and her use of non-secured servers. As the plot thickens, oversight committees are making their impatience felt.
Newly released texts between Strzok and Page appear to show that both the FBI and the DOJ were “pulling punches” in an effort to avoid retribution from the person they wrongly thought would be sitting in the White House.
The messages add to doubts about FBI impartiality; they indicate that investigators were unwilling to aggravate Clinton who at that stage was in the running to be the next President:
Page: One more thing: she might be our next president. The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more doj than fbi?
Strzok: Agreed. I called Bill and relayed what we discussed.
MISSING TEXT MESSAGES FOUND
Not only have texts between Strozk and Page raised concerns about partisan bias in the FBI, but the fact that five months of messages between the two are missing has drawn suspicion. The FBI attributed the disappearance to a “technical glitch” by which staff members’ agency-issued Samsung 5 phones did not store the information properly in the bureau’s archive. The agency claims that the glitch affected almost 10% of personnel on different dates – in the case of Page and Strzok, the period affected was Dec. 14, 2016, until May 17, 2017, the date Mueller was appointed to the Russia investigation, and the day after Trump fired James Comey.
In a letter prompted by government oversight committee questions, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz yesterday revealed that his office had managed to find some of the missing texts, although he did not describe the content of the texts, nor the number that is still missing.
Inspector General Horowitz wrote in a letter addressed to Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman) and Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA; Judiciary Committee Chairman) that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) had been looking into the FBI’s failure to present the messages and had this week been successful in obtaining some of the texts:
The OIG has been investigating this matter and, this week, succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices, including test messages between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page that were sent or received between December 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017. Our effort to recover any additional text messages is ongoing.
Horowitz was writing in response to the senators, who had earlier sent a letter to the OIG on January 23, seeking clarification on the missing texts. While Horowitz’s reply failed to answer many of the 15 questions put to him in the senators’ letter, he did offer to share department records and copies of the recovered texts with Congress.
OVERSIGHT FRUSTRATIONMichael Horowitz
While senior DOJ officials like Horowitz are conducting their own investigations, a tone of frustration is unmistakably coming from oversight committees. Under Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose responsibility it is to oversee the DOJ and the agencies under its jurisdiction (such as the FBI), has expressed doubts as to the transparency of the FBI and DOJ investigations.
Grassley also contacted FBI Director Christopher Wray Thursday, to express concern over a variety of issues, including the possibility that Strzok and Page had been transmitting investigation-related documents not only through FBI-issued Samsungs but also via non-secured personal devices on apps such as imessage. This not only brings up the issue of insecure communications, but also that evidence may be found on these personal devices.
In addition to further information on the missing texts, he also urged the de-classification of the memo that is theorized to show FBI use of the Democrats’ anti-Trump dossier in an attempt to obtain FISA warrants to spy on members of the Trump presidential campaign. Grassley stated on the Senate floor on January 24:
One of my key concerns is the loss of faith in the ability of the Justice Department and the FBI to do their jobs free from partisan political bias… Based on what I know, I agree that as much of this information should made be public as soon as possible, through the appropriate process. And, I don’t just mean the summary memos. The government should release the underlying documents referenced in those memos, after deleting any national security information that truly needs to be protected. But most of this story can be told, and should be told. The American people deserve the truth.
And who could say it better? There are now investigations of investigations in what seems to be an ever more complex spider web of lies, cover-ups, and negligence. At this point, it’s hard to tell who is really looking for the truth and who is just trying to advance their own personal agenda.