The dust had barely settled from FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok’s showdown with House Republicans by the time one of his possible fellow conspirators finally made her own appearance before a congressional panel. Lisa Page, the FBI attorney who exchanged politically-charged text messages with Strzok during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, appeared at a closed-door hearing Friday, July 13. While no details of what was said in the hearing have yet been made public, it appears that Page was less belligerent than her former lover and colleague and provided lawmakers with some new information.
Page, who left the FBI in May of 2018, had worked as counsel to former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Throughout the presidential primary season, the presidential campaign itself, and up until a short time after President Donald Trump took office, Page exchanged many hundreds of messages with Strzok via several channels of communication, including email, messaging services, and text messages from the couple’s personal and FBI-issue cellphones.
Do the Strzok-Page Text Messages Reveal a Conspiracy?
Text messages recovered from the FBI phones have since been made public. Page and Strzok both harbored very strong political opinions and, while Trump was not the sole target of their invective, it was clear from many of the texts that both Strzok and Page utterly loathed Trump and his supporters. Indeed, they were both initially sure that Trump would not win the election. As Hillary Clinton’s victory became less inevitable, the two became more alarmed at the possibility of a Trump presidency. This exchange of political opinions was conducted against a backdrop of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. Strzok was the lead agent on that investigation.
The two FBI officials continued their communications as the Clinton investigation was concluded and then reopened and the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the election campaign began. The extreme animus these two individuals showed toward Trump is concerning enough, given the pair’s senior positions and involvement in the Clinton and Russia investigations. Of far more concern, however, were certain messages the two exchanged that indicated the willingness and, indeed, the intent to prevent Trump from becoming president and, if he were to win, the formulation of a plan to bring him down.
Of the several highly-incriminating messages exchanged between Page and Strzok, there are two that stand out as particularly alarming. One evening in August 2016, Pages texted Strzok: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Interestingly, this message was not released along with the bulk of the messages initially made public. It came to light only in June 2018.
At his own public hearing, Strzok claimed no recollection of having sent the message while, at the same time, insisting that it was a visceral reaction to then-candidate Trump’s “disgusting behavior” and that, by “we’ll stop it,” he had meant that the American people would not elect Trump.
Also, in August of 2016, Strzok texted Page about a meeting the two had attended in Andrew McCabe’s office: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…”
Strzok explained to lawmakers that he had been referring to the need to thoroughly investigate potential connections between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. Other FBI officials, apparently including Page, had argued – according to Strzok – that the Bureau should tread carefully and that, in any event, it was unlikely that Trump would win the election.
FBI Still Playing Defense
Even assuming the former counterintelligence agent is truthfully explaining his reference to an “insurance policy” here, one cannot help considering the implications: This senior Special Agent appears to be urging his colleagues and superiors to investigate potential future members of a Trump cabinet in case they have compromising connections to a foreign adversary. This is a clear presumption of guilt – something Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has described as “textbook bias.”
For her part, Page was described by Republican lawmakers as “cooperative and credible,” according to a report in The Hill. She is due to answer further questions on Monday, July 16. Despite no longer being employed by the FBI, Page was accompanied, at the hearing, by an FBI counsel. The Bureau is, apparently, still very concerned about what she might be able to reveal to lawmakers as they compare her version of events to what Strzok has told them.
Ultimately, it is politically-motivated abuse of power that lies, potentially, at the bottom of the hole dug by Strzok, Page, McCabe, former FBI Director James Comey, and others. Much to the dismay of the FBI, the Department of Justice and congressional Democrats, Republicans continue to dig.