In search of lost texts (2)

Late last week the Department of Justice advised Senator Ron Johnson that the FBI had failed to preserve five months’ worth of text messages between FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page. By cover letter from Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd accompanying documents submitted to Senator Johnson, the Department of Justice advised that the FBI did not preserve text messages between Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok between approximately December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017. Keep those dates in mind.

Like Virginia, the FBI is for lovers. What a disgrace to the institution and its law enforcement mission. It turns out that Stzok and Page exchanged in many politically charged text messages between them, and that does not account for the intense five-month period that culminated in the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to secure the removal of President Trump from office.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz originally turned up the notorious Strzok-Page text messages in the course of his investigation of the Department of Justice/FBI handling of the Clinton email investigation in advance of the presidential election. Horowitz appears to be an honest and dogged investigator, but his mission and authority are limited.

As Chairmen of the Senate’s Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, respectively, Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson have sought to follow up on Horowitz’s work. On December 6, 2017, they wrote Horowitz to ask about the text messages. They asked Horowitz a series of questions including one directed to his discovery of the text messages.

By letter dated December 13, 2017, Horowitz responded to the questions posed by Senators Grassley and Johnson. This is what Horowitz said about the discovery of the text messages (emphasis added):

In gathering evidence for the [Office of Inspector General’s] ongoing 2016 election review, we requested, consistent with standard practice, that the FBI produce text messages from the FBI-issued phones of certain FBI employees involved in the Clinton e-mail investigation based on search terms we provided. After finding a number of politically-oriented text messages between Page and Strzok, the OIG sought from the FBI all text messages between Strzok and Page from their FBI-issued phones through November 30, 2016, which covered the entire period of the Clinton e-mail server investigation. The FBI produced these text messages on July 20, 2017. Following our review of those text messages, the OIG expanded our request to the FBI to include all text messages between Strzok and Page through the date of the document request, which was July 28, 2017. The OIG received these additional messages on August 10, 2017.

According to the Department of Justice cover letter sent to Senator Johnson last week, however, the FBI did not preserve text messages between Strzok and Page between approximately December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017. See Senator Johnson’s letter dated January 20, 2018, to FBI Director Wray that I posted here yesterday.

Horowitz’s letter, however, seems to indicate that he has in hand messages that include the period of “lost” or unpreserved messages. Whatever he has, it is crucial evidence.

Byron York took up some of the wrinkles in the saga of the Strzok-Page communications in his Washington Examiner column posted just past midnight. I haven’t seen this element of the story addressed anywhere and wanted to bring it to the attention of readers.

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