Senior officials at the FBI and the Justice Department engaged in a coordinated effort to selectively leak information potentially damaging to the Trump administration, according to Rep. Mark Meadows, who has reviewed a new batch of text messages between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Meadows (R-N.C.) writes that lawmakers are gravely concerned about “an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ.”
Meadows cites several messages between Strzok and Page, who had an extramarital affair while working at the bureau. In the messages, the pair discussed a “media leak strategy” as well as upcoming articles that resulted from the disclosures.
In one message, sent on April 10, 2017, Strzok, who has since been fired from the bureau for his biased messages, wrote that he “had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go.”
Two days later, on April 12, 2017, Strzok congratulated Page in relation to two defamatory articles about to be published about former Trump-campaign volunteer Carter Page. Strzok told Page that the articles are much “worse” than the previous reporting about her “namesake.”
Ten days later, Strzok wrote to Lisa Page: “Article is out! Well done, Page.”
The FBI and the Justice Department (DOJ) declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
“Review of these new documents suggests a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information in the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration,” Meadows wrote.
On the day after Strzok’s message about the “media leak strategy,” The Washington Post published an article revealing that the FBI had obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor Carter Page. One of the article’s authors, Devlin Barrett, is a known conduit for leaks from the FBI. Strzok and Lisa Page mentioned Barrett by name as early as October 2016.
The Washington Post article rehashes some of the allegations in the FISA warrant application and separately reports on the allegations from the anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Congressional investigators have since uncovered that most of the FISA application was based on the Steele dossier. The applications failed to mention that the dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
“This conduct was an egregious ethical violation by the DOJ and the FBI and to the extent it was used in the FISA applications it evidences both a criminal conspiracy and false statements to a court,” Sidney Powell, an attorney specializing in federal appeals, said. “It also led to the Mueller investigation which should have all charges it brought against anyone dismissed for egregious government misconduct.”
The Justice Department produced a new trove of text messages to Congress on Aug. 6, according to a DOJ spokesperson. The messages were recovered from the cell phones of Strzok and Lisa Page by the DOJ Office of Inspector General.
Meadows’s letter cites what appears to be parts of several text messages. A spokesman for Meadows did not respond to a request for the full text of the messages.
Lawmakers have reviewed documents indicating that other DOJ officials made unauthorized disclosures to the media. Meadows specifically named Andrew Weissmann, who is now part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Meadows asked Rosenstein to provide the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees with communications involving three more FBI and DOJ officials: Stu Evans, Mike Kortan, and Joe Pientka.
“To be clear, we are not suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Evans, Kortan, and Pientka—and, in fact, previously reviewed documents suggest that some of these individuals may share in the committees’ same concerns,” Meadows wrote, adding that the committee is especially interested in the communications between the above-mentioned people and Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, and Andrew Weissmann.
The FBI fired Strzok in August for his anti-Trump texts. Lisa Page left the bureau in May. Ohr was demoted for failing to disclose that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele to write the dossier.
“Everyday and every week, we find out more and more the level of corruption and subversion with the Obama administration,” Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to Trump, told The Epoch Times. “It is now clear that Strzok and his co-conspirators attempted to subvert a presidential candidate and then undermine the duly elected commander-in-chief.”
The new Page–Strzok texts are the latest evidence of a pervasive leak culture within the FBI and DOJ. The House committees investigating FBI and DOJ actions during and after the 2016 election continue to come across evidence the culture continues to exist, according to Meadows.
In June, a report by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General found that many FBI employees at every level of the organization had improper contacts with the media.
“We have profound concerns about the volume and extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered during our review,” the report stated, recommending that a change is needed in the bureau’s cultural attitude about media disclosures.
The inspector general’s investigators also found that FBI employees received benefits from their media contacts, including tickets to sporting events, golf outings, drinks, and meals. The report stated that leak investigations are ongoing.
The Trump administration was hit with a barrage of leaks during the president’s first three months in office. A Senate investigation found that the White House was subject to 125 leaks of information potentially damaging to national security in the four months following President Donald Trump’s inauguration last year. Comparable periods during the prior two administrations had seven times fewer leaks, the Senate report (pdf) found.
The leaks were not limited to the FBI. Top Obama appointees have either been fired or are under investigation for leaking to the press.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was the source of a major leak to CNN and lied about it to Congress, President Donald Trump, and the public, according to a report (pdf) by the House intelligence committee released in April. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed in June that his office is investigating former FBI Director James Comey for leaking classified information. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, Comey’s top deputy, for authorizing a self-serving leak to the media and lying about it to investigators.