| April 25, 2019 10:00 PM
A text message exchange between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page is getting a fresh look.
Two top Senate Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Thursday, offering a tip for his review of the initial investigation into the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016.
They cite “text messages that may show potential attempts by the FBI to conduct surveillance of President-elect Trump’s transition team,” in which Strzok and Page discussed on their work phones the “possibility of developing ‘potential relationships’ at a November 2016 FBI briefing for presidential transition team staff.”
After noting a prior briefing with “Pence,” most likely then-incoming Vice President Mike Pence, Strzok indicates he is talking with former top FBI official Bill Priestap and asks Page if they want to “go with” a specific individual, whose name is redacted, “for a variety of [reasons].”
Page replied that she is unsure, wondering, “Would it be unusual to have show up again? Maybe another agent from the team?”
“Or, he’s ‘the CI [counter-intelligence] guy.’ Same.might make sense. He can assess if [there] are any new Qs, or different demeanor. If [redacted’s] husband is there, he can see if there are people we can develop for potential relationships,” Strzok said.
Page is the former FBI lawyer who had an affair with Strzok, an FBI agent who was the lead investigator in the Clinton investigation. The thousands of text messages that they sent back and forth about the Clinton and Trump-Russia investigations raised questions of bias, and special counsel Robert Mueller eventually removed Strzok from the Russia investigation. Strzok was also fired by the FBI.
The two senators who wrote the letter, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said if this conversation is indicative of “improper FBI surveillance activities,” then it must be addressed. They also impressed upon Barr that any leaks to the media about the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, including the word of informants, is unacceptable.
Grassley and Johnson asked Barr to schedule a briefing by May 9.
The FBI’s original Russia investigation, which began in July 2016, was later wrapped into Mueller’s inquiry looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
Republicans in the House and Senate have been engaged in their own investigations into alleged misconduct and bias within the upper echelons of the Department of Justice and FBI, including the anti-Trump text messages of Strzok and Page, which they are concerned will reveal a scheme to undermine Trump. A Justice Department inspector general report released last summer condemned Strzok and Page for tweets that suggested “a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.”
Barr sparked an uproar among Democrats and the media earlier this month during his testimony to a Senate budget panel, asserting that “spying did occur” on Trump’s 2016 campaign. That same week Barr said he is putting a team together to look into surveillance abuse.
Barr is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 about the recently concluded federal Russia investigation.
Mueller concluded his probe last month, after which the Justice Department released a redacted version of the special counsel’s nearly 450-page report. It said Trump’s campaign had “numerous links” to the Russians but “the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” The special counsel also described several instances of possible obstruction of justice but did not make a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed the investigation. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein instead made the conclusion, determining the president did not obstruct justice.