Senator Grassley’s question

Among the hundreds of Peter Strzok/Lisa Page text messages released in advance of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday was Strzok’s somewhat cryptic statement to Page dated Aug. 15, 2016. This is what it said:

I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40….

“Andy” must be Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, but what is the functional equivalent of “an insurance policy” against the unlikely event of a Trump’s election?

Tactfully assessing our interpretive efforts, Byron York notes the relevant background:

The exchange occurred in the early weeks of the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. When he was still director, James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the Trump-Russia probe began “in late July” 2016. So, it had been going for two or three weeks when Strzok wrote the “insurance policy” text. Strzok played a large role in that investigation. …

Following up on the messages yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley submitted a letter raising six questions to Rosenstein. This is question number 5:

My understanding is that [Department of Justice] Inspector General [Michael Horowitz]’s current investigation is limited to the handling of the Clinton email matter only. What steps have you taken to determine whether steps taken during the campaign to escalate the Russia investigation might have been a result of the political animus evidenced by these text messages rather than on the merits?

Grassley is referring to the investigation that turned up the Strzok/Page text messages. Chuck Ross supplies the newly disclosed background here.

Strzok’s message refers to the FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. The point of Senator Grassley’s question is a good one; it requires an answer in substance beyond what steps Rosenstein has or hasn’t taken. What was the basis of that investigation? The answer won’t come from Rosenstein or from Horowitz, for that matter. If we are to get an answer, someone with authority to compel answers from Strzok, Page, McCabe, Comey et al., will have to do so some time soon.

NOTE: Trying to figure out the relevant timeline myself, I found the October 31, 2016 New York Times story by Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers to be of interest: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

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