The FBI has taken another hit to its former reputation as an unbiased source of justice as more information has been uncovered showing that some agents might have had contact with reporters during the Russia probe.
House and Senate committees are looking into the possibility that people involved in the Russia counterintelligence investigation were in contact with members of the news media, facilitating leaks. The investigation was started because text messages among senior FBI officials were discovered, that show them discussing particular reporters, news organizations and stories, The Hill reported.
In one exchange, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page engaged in a series of texts shortly before Election Day 2016 suggesting they knew in advance about an article in The Wall Street Journal and would need to feign stumbling onto the story so it could be shared with colleagues.
“Article is out, but hidden behind paywall so can’t read it,” Page texted Strzok on Oct. 24, 2016.
“Wsj? Boy that was fast,” Strzok texted back, using the initials of the famed financial newspaper. “Should I ‘find’ it and tell the team?”
The text messages, which were reviewed by The Hill, show the two FBI agents discussed how they might make it appear they innocently discovered the article, such as through Google News alerts.
“I can get it like I do every other article that hits any Google News alerts, seriously,” Strzok wrote, adding he didn’t want his team hearing about the article “from someone else.”
Strzok played major roles in both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the probe into alleged ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians, until he was removed from the latter case after his bias against the president was discovered. It was discovered in a series of tweets with Page in which he described having an insurance policy against President Trump.
The Justice Department told Congress that Strzok and Page were engaged in an affair at the time. Page was then serving as an attorney for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose wife was running for office as a Democrat, with ties to Hillary Clinton.
Currently the Justice Department has 27 ongoing leak investigations which is three times the amount of such investigations had in the past three years combined.
FBI and Justice Department officials declined to comment about the Strzok-Page texts, noting the Justice Department inspector general is currently investigating the messages and any political bias or other wrongdoing that may have occurred in the Russia case.
Former FBI Director James Comey, on whose watch the Russia case began, has previously testified he did not authorize or engage in leaking while in office, though he admitted arranging a leak after he was fired by President Trump last spring in hopes it would prompt a special prosecutor appointment.
In a separate investigation the House Intelligence Committee says it has discovered evidence that Mueller’s current deputy in his Russia investigation, Justice Department financial fraud prosecutor Andrew Weissman, had also been in contact with members of the news media last April.
“I understand that your office is researching records related to the details of an April 2017 meeting between DOJ Attorney Andrew Weissman (now the senior attorney for Special Counsel Robert Mueller) and the media, which will also be provided to this Committee by close of business on Thursday, January 11, 2018,” California Republican Devin Nunes wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.