Former FBI attorney Lisa Page is suing the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for alleged privacy violations after they released text messages between her and former FBI agent Peter Strzok which contained material that disparaged President Donald Trump.
Trump has argued that their biases played a role in the FBI’s investigation of members of his 2016 presidential campaign.
Page, 39, announced she was filing the lawsuit on Twitter on Dec. 10, alleging that the publication of the messages in December 2017 between her and Strzok—with whom she had an affair—constituted a breach of the Federal Privacy Act.
I sued the Department of Justice and FBI today.
I take little joy in having done so. But what they did in leaking my messages to the press was not only wrong, it was illegal. https://t.co/ecR58rmxlB
— Lisa Page (@NatSecLisa) December 10, 2019
“I sued the Department of Justice and FBI today,” Page wrote on Twitter. “I take little joy in having done so. But what they did in leaking my messages to the press was not only wrong; it was illegal.”
In her complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the former FBI lawyer said she had suffered, among other damages, “permanent loss of earning capacity due to reputational damage,” and “the cost of therapy to cope with unwanted national media exposure and harassment.”
The 39-year-old in her complaint sought reimbursement for attorney’s fees, the “cost of paying a data-privacy service to protect her personal information,” and for “the cost of childcare during and transportation to multiple investigative reviews and appearances before Congress.”
The DOJ released a total of 375 texts from Page to Strzok in December 2017, compiled by its inspector general while investigating alleged bias at the FBI. The messages were then leaked as evidence to show that certain officials at the bureau displayed bias against Trump amid his presidential campaign.
A text message from Page to Strzok in July 2016 read: “She [Hillary Clinton] just has to win now. I’m not going to lie; I got a flash of nervousness yesterday about Trump.” Just days later, then-candidate Trump was investigated by the FBI concerning his alleged links to Russia, reported Fox News.
Page worked on the Clinton email investigation and was part of the FBI team, which was investigating the Trump campaign for alleged collusion with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.
In another text, Trump was called a “douche” by Strzok, while Page wrote, “This man cannot be president,” after Trump joked about his hand size while at a presidential debate.
Another exchange between the pair during the summer before the 2016 presidential election appeared to detail bias against Trump.
Page wrote, “[Trump is] not ever going to become president Right?!” to which Strzok responded: “No. No, he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
After the messages were disclosed, Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and later was fired from the FBI. Strzok, in July 2018, told Congress the text was sent late at night “off-the-cuff,” and was based on his belief that Americans would not elect someone demonstrating the “behavior” Trump displayed as a presidential candidate.
The lawsuit alleges that “DOJ and/or FBI officials” leaked the messages “for multiple improper reasons, including to elevate the DOJ’s standing with the president.”
Page in her complaint accuses the DOJ of bringing “reporters to the Department to review the messages at night, prohibiting the reporters from copying or removing the set of messages from the building, and instructing them not to reveal DOJ as the source.”
“This clandestine approach is inconsistent with the disclosure of agency records for transparency purposes or to advance the public interest,” the lawsuit states.
Release of IG Report
Page’s lawsuit was filed a day after the release of a major report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz that concluded that the FBI’s Russia investigation was not politically biased.
Trump, however, said that the report showed the FBI “fabricated evidence” and “lied to the courts.”
Inspector General Michael Horowitz found 17 “significant errors or omissions” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
“It’s a disgrace what’s happened with the things that were done to our country,” Trump told an array of Republican Senators and state officials in the White House on Dec. 9, shortly after the report (pdf) was released to the public. “It’s incredible, far worse than what I ever thought possible.”
Trump, who said he was briefed on the report, added: “It’s a very sad day when I see that.” Claiming the probe was “concocted,” he said the intelligence abuses were “probably something that’s never happened in the history of our country.”
“They fabricated evidence, and they lied to the courts,” Trump continued. “This was an attempted overthrow, and a lot of people were in on it, and they got caught.
Most of the FBI agents and officials who were part of the major errors have left the agency or been removed from their positions, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Horowitz in a letter also released on Monday. The same is true for the Department of Justice.
Attorney General William Barr said that Horowitz’s report “now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
“It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. … In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source. The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory,” he added.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.