When the House Intelligence Committee told the Justice Department they wanted to know if there were any more “anti-Trump” messages from investigators working for Robert Mueller, they probably had no idea just what that meant.
Officials have uncovered more than 10,000 text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Strzok was recently removed from the Special Councel’s Russia probe after some messages criticizing President Donald Trump were found.
Justice officials said they are in the middle of combing through the texts to hand them over to the House committee.
Strzok worked as an FBI counterintelligence agent and was on Mueller’s probe, but was transferred by their Human Resources department after it was learned not only was he sharing virulently anti-Trump messages with Page, but also having an affair with her.
Page also worked on Mueller’s investigation, but has since been reassigned.
It’s unclear just how many of the 10,000 text messages are about Trump – certainly not all we’d hope. Two people engaged in an illicit work affair hopefully have more to talk about than how much they hate the President, right?
Fox News reports that Justice Department officials say the process of reading and redacting the texts could take “weeks,” and that the thousands of text messages between Strzok and Page span over “several months.”
The review process comes as the committee also said they plan to move forward with a contempt charge against top DOJ and FBI officials after the agencies did not comply with a deadline to hand over long-sought information that goes well beyond text messages.
Strzok is a focus of their efforts. House investigators have long regarded him as a key figure in the chain of events when the bureau, in 2016, received the infamous anti-Trump “dossier” and launched a counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the election that ultimately came to encompass FISA surveillance of a Trump campaign associate.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republcian, has sought documents and witnesses from the DOJ and FBI to determine what role, if any, the dossier played in the move to direct the surveillance.
Strzok briefed the committee on Dec. 5, 2016, sources said. But within months of that session House Intelligence Committee investigators were contacted by an informant suggesting that there was “documentary evidence” that Strzok was purportedly obstructing the House probe into the dossier.
Early Saturday afternoon, after Strzok’s texts were cited in published reports by the New York Times and the Washington Post – and Fox News had followed up with inquiries about the department’s refusal to make Strzok available to House investigators – the Justice Department contacted the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan to establish a date for Strzok’s appearance before House Intelligence Committee staff, along with two other witnesses long sought by the Nunes team.
Justice officials insist they have been “very responsive” to the committee’s demands, but Nunes has doubts.
He said that after the Strzok texts were revealed, the DOJ expressed a “sudden willingness to comply with some of the Committee’s long-standing demands” but added: “This attempted 11th-hour accommodation is neither credible nor believable, and in fact is yet another example of the DOJ’s disingenuousness and obstruction.”