A new batch of texts released to Congress on Monday appears to show FBI agents discussing arranging negative stories about President Trump.
The texts show now-fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and then-FBI attorney Lisa Page discussing a “media strategy” that appeared to be designed to generate negative stories about Trump and his aides.
The texts, revealed in a letter from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, raise “grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and [Department of Justice] related to ongoing investigations,” Meadows wrote.
“During our interviews with Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, FBI attorneys consistently suggested witnesses could not answer questions due to the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual policy for ongoing investigations,” Meadows wrote. “However, documents strongly suggest that these same witnesses discussed the ongoing investigations multiple times with individuals outside of the investigative team on a regular basis.”
Meadows pointed to a text on April 10, 2017, in which Strzok, who has since been fired from the FBI to improper conduct related to the Russia probe, wrote to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
“I 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,” the text said.
Two days later, according to Meadows’ letter, “Peter Strzok congratulates Lisa Page on a job well done while referring to two derogatory articles about Carter Page. In the text, Strzok warns Page two articles are coming out, one of which is ‘worse’ than the other about Lisa’s ‘namesake.’ Strzok added: ‘Well done, Page.’”
Meadows’ letter points out these texts were written “during the same timeframe as FBI and DOJ officials were having conversations with reporters – the Washington Post broke a story on the Carter Page FISA application on April 11, 2017, setting off a flurry of articles suggesting connections between President Trump and Russia. Other documents indicate DOJ officials, specifically Andrew Weissman, participated in unauthorized conversations with the media during this same time period. Evidence suggests senior officials at the FBI and DOJ communicated with other news outlets beyond the Washington Post, as well.”
Democrats charged Strzok and Lisa Page were not coordinating leaks but rather working to prevent them. A letter from Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Jarrod Nadler, R-N.Y., stated the ‘media leak strategy’ Strzok referred to concerned “was referring to ‘the strategy, meetings and discussions’ about press leak regulations and the proposed internal changes to them by some officials,” Roll Call wrote.
But the day after the media leak strategy text, the Washington Post published a story headlined, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page” by Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous. This “triggered a flurry of articles suggesting connections between President Trump and Russia,” Meadows said later.
The next day, April 12, Strzok texted Lisa Page that another article about her “namesake,” an apparent reference to Carter Page, would be out soon. Then, on April 22, Strzok texted Lisa Page “Well done, Page.”
Meadows also pointed to other such activity by senior FBI and Department of Justice officials, “including DOJ prosecutor and top Robert Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann, [who] met with several Associated Press reporters in April 2017, according to court filings in the Virginia federal trial of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.”
Meadows charged there is “troubling evidence” leaks to friendly mainstream media reporters continue to this day. He requested text message records for three other FBI and Department of Justice officials who, he said, “may share some of the committees’ same concerns” regarding improper leaks.