Newly revealed text messages between two top FBI officials suggest an effort by high-ranking officials in the Obama White House, Justice Department, CIA, FBI, and the Senate to secretly coordinate the investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Fox News reported citing Republican investigators in Congress.
CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid worked together in the early stages of the Trump probe in 2016, the text messages suggest, which is contrary to the Obama administration’s public statements that it was not involved in the investigation.
“Internal joint cyber cd intel piece for D, scenesetter for McDonough brief, Trainor [head of FBI cyber division] directed all cyber info be pulled,” former head of counterintelligence at the FBI, Peter Strzok, texted senior FBI attorney Lisa Page on Aug. 8, 2016. “I’d let Bill and Jim hammer it out first, though it would be best for D to have it before the Wed WH session.”
In the message “D” stands for FBI Director Comey and “McDonough” stands for Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, according to the investigators.
“We are not making conclusions. What we are saying is that the timeline is concerning enough to warrant the appointment of an independent investigator to look at whether or not the Obama White House was involved [in the Trump-Russia investigation],” a Republican source in Congress told Fox News.
In the days leading up to the Aug. 8 text message, Strzok and Page appear to discuss steps to conceal their activity from future public scrutiny.
“Make sure you can lawfully protect what you sign. Just thinking about congress, foia, etc. You probably know better than me,” Page texted Strzok on Aug. 2, 2016.
In the message, “foia” refers to the Freedom of Information Act, which enables the public to view any government document and “congress” refers likely refers to the Congressional power to investigate the executive branch.
The CIA and FBI are historically independent agencies, meaning that “coordination between political actors at the White House and investigators would be inappropriate,” the investigators said.
Though Fox News did not name its Congressional sources, there are two committees in the House and Senate investigating matters related to the handling of the Trump-Russia probe. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The House Intelligence Committee concluded a similar investigation but stated that it will continue investigating matters that arose from their probe.
The investigators point out that two weeks after the Aug. 8 text from Strzok to Page, Brennan went to Capitol Hill to brief Reid. Two days later, on Aug. 27, Reid wrote a letter to Comey demanding an investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Two days after that, The New York Times reported on the letter, thrusting an investigation that was still under wraps into the public spotlight.
“Here we go,” Strzok texted Page, including a link to the Times article titled “Harry Reid Cites Evidence of Russian Tampering in U.S. Vote and Seeks FBI Inquiry.”
Strzok then wrote: “D [Comey] said at am brief that Reid called him and told him he would be sending a letter.”
Reid’s letter and the Times article created a cover for the colluding parties who investigators say had been investigating Trump since mid-July on “questionable ethical and legal grounds.”
“The ‘here we go’ text between Strzok and Page indicates the FBI/ DOJ knew the letter from Reid was coming,” a congressional source told Fox News. “This created the inference they knew it would create public calls for an investigation into Russian interference—covering them.”
The Fox News source stressed the information available so far isn’t “passing judgment” or “claiming a smoking gun” but did point out that the course of events was “incredibly concerning.”
“At some point, the amount of concerning information becomes enough for a special counsel to look into it,” the source said.
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