Senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok sent a text message to a senior bureau attorney saying “we’ll stop” Donald Trump from becoming president, according to text messages released for the first time in the highly anticipated report by the Justice Department inspector general.
Strzok, the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Espionage Section, sent the message on Aug. 8, 2016, to his mistress, Lisa Page, the special counsel to former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote to Strzok.
“No. No he won’t,” Strzok replied. “We’ll stop it.”
When asked about the message by the investigators, Strzok claimed he didn’t remember sending it and insisted that he didn’t take any steps that would impact the presidential election.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz investigated the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case for over a year. The extremely detailed, 586-page report (pdf) released on June 14 found that communications between Page and Strzok “cast a cloud over the FBI’s handling” of the Clinton-email investigation and the bureau’s reputation as an independent investigative agency.
“The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the FBI Midyear investigation and sowed doubt the FBI’s work on, and its handling of, the Midyear investigation,” the report states, using the FBI’s codename for the Clinton-email probe.
“Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence,” the report states.
Messages between Page and Strzok are part of the report because both were involved in the Clinton-email investigation. Strzok was the supervising agent on the case. Page served as McCabe’s liaison.
Strzok and Page were not the only agents on the Clinton-email case who were biased against Trump and supportive of Clinton. The report found that two FBI agents, an FBI attorney, and an FBI employee involved in the investigation had an animus against Trump and supported Clinton.
The inspector general referred a total of five employees to the FBI for potential disciplinary action. Before the report’s release, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that people could be terminated if firable offenses are brought to light.
The inspector general concluded that the conduct of the persons involved “has brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI.” Despite the alarming messages between Page, Strzok, and the other officials involved, Horowitz found that the Clinton email case was not impacted by the political views of the those conducting it.
The messages released in the inspector general’s report shed further light on the already questionable communications between Strzok and Page and their involvement in politically sensitive investigations despite their bias. Both were assigned to the probe of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Strzok led the investigation beginning in late July 2016. As with the Clinton-email case, Page was McCabe’s liaison.
In text messages made public prior to the inspector general’s report, the pair discussed an “insurance policy” in case Trump became president as well as a “secret society” meeting. Both expressed hatred toward Trump and the intention to go easy on Clinton.
The “text messages included political opinions about candidates and issues involved in the 2016 presidential election, including statements of hostility toward then-candidate Trump and statements of support for candidate Clinton,” the report states. “Several of their text messages also appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about the Midyear and Russia investigations, raising a question as to whether Strzok’s and Page’s political opinions may have affected investigative decisions.”
The counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, which started in mid-2016, morphed into a criminal investigation in mid-2017, when special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russia’s meddling in the election. Both Page and Strzok were also assigned to that probe.
Page left Mueller’s team around July 15, 2017, according to the report. Strzok was reassigned to the human resources department a day after Mueller learned of the pair’s text messages on July 27, 2017.
In light of Strzok’s lead role in the investigation of the Trump campaign before and after the election, his intention to “stop” Trump is alarming.
Multiple aspects of the investigation of the Trump campaign are already facing intense scrutiny. Congressional investigations and leaks from anonymous sources over the course of a year revealed that the FBI used a spy to infiltrate the Trump campaign, obtained a warrant to wiretap a campaign volunteer using an unverified opposition research dossier funded by the Clinton campaign, and worked to reel in double agents, among other issues.
The inspector general’s team reviewed more than 40,000 text messages between Page and Strzok. The pair frequently discussed their support of Clinton and hatred of Trump, with Page writing, “God trump [sic] is a loathsome human,” and Strzok writing, “God Hillary should win 100,000,000-0.”
Page and Strzok told investigators that their text messages were an expression of their political opinions but did not impact their work. Strzok acknowledged that “it was dumb to do that all on a government device.” Page said that the pair used government phones to conceal from their spouses that they were having an extramarital affair.
The report, for the first time, includes explanations from Page and Strzok about their most controversial texts.
In reference to the text message about “an insurance policy” in case Trump won the election, Strzok said that he could not recall the related conversation, and Page said she could not find a note of it in her notebook.
“Strzok said the reference in his text message to an ‘insurance policy’ reflected his conclusion that the FBI should investigate the allegations thoroughly right away, as if Trump were going to win,” the report states. “Strzok stated that Clinton’s position in the polls did not ultimately impact the investigative decisions that were made in the Russia matter.”
Strzok told also investigators that Page’s mention of a “secret society” was related to him purchasing “a bunch of Putin 2017 calendars” and planning to give them to senior members of the FBI around election time. After a lengthy explanation, Page said the comment was a “joke.”
When the “secret society” text message was made public in January this year, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), citing an informant, said that the secret society consisted of high-level officials in the FBI and Justice Department who held secret off-site meetings.
In the final days before the inspector general’s report was released, congressional investigators, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chair of the House intelligence committee, intensified their demands for the Justice Department to release documents related to how and for what reason the probe of the Trump campaign was ultimately initiated. The FBI’s stated rationale for starting the investigation keeps shifting, with the latest explanation rooted in drunken comments made by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos to an Australian diplomat in London about Russians having “dirt” on Clinton.
This rationale is now in question since anonymous leaks to the media revealed that the FBI had a spy infiltrate the Trump campaign before the counterintelligence probe was officially launched. Furthermore, recently unredacted messages between Page and Strzok show that the FBI was working on recruiting double agents against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.
The DOJ has so far declined to provide the documents Nunes requested. The inspector general’s report leads to more questions about problems within the department.
“The Inspector General report shows real problems within the FBI and Justice Department,” Johnson said in a statement about the report. “While some questions have been answered, many new questions have been raised.”
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