The FBI’s anti-Trump “leak strategy,” Part Two

In a previous post, I reproduced a letter that Rep. Mark Meadows sent to Rod Rosenstein about the FBI’s anti-Trump media leak strategy. Meadows cited, among things, an April 10, 2017 text in which Peter Strozk told Lisa Page, “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.”

Recognizing the explosive nature of this email, Aitan Goelman, an attorney for Strzok, has offered an innocent explanation. He insists that “the term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media.” In other words, according to Strzok’s mouthpiece, the FBI man and his lover were working to prevent leaks, not to produce them.

But how does Goelman explain the other text Meadows cites in his letter to Rosenstein — the one sent two days later in which Strzok congratulates Lisa Page on news that two derogatory stories about Carter Page are about to appear in the press? Clearly, Strzok and his mistress were on a mission to leak anti-Trump stories.

Another text message between Strzok and Page that has just come to light makes this even more plain. This text, obtained by indefatigable Sara Carter, shows that, in the spring of 2017 when Strzok and Page were discussing their media leak strategy, Strzok was in contact with reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post regarding stories they published about the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Strzok specifically mentioned two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Michael Schmidt in a text message to Page.

The newly revealed text message is revealing at multiple levels and even amusing in a “no honor among thieves” sort of way.

Strzok told Page that “apparently [the] Times is angry with us about the WP [Washington Post] scoop and earlier discussion we had about the Schmidt piece that had so many inaccuracies.” He continued, “Too much to detail here, but I told Mike [Kortan] and Andy [McCabe] they need to understand we were absolutely dealing in good faith with them.”

In other words, (1) the Times and the Post were competing for the scoops Strzok was doling out as part of his media leak strategy, (2) Strzok’s information was full of inaccuracies, and (3) top FBI officials Mike Kortan (the former FBI assistant director for public affairs) and Andrew McCabe were part of the media leak strategy team.

So much for the notion that Strzok’s media leak strategy was about preventing leaks.

The Washington Post story in question — the one the New York Times was upset about being scooped on — apparently was an April 11, 2017 article headlined “FBI Obtained FISA warrant to monitor former Trump advisor Carter Page.” It contained detailed information about the FBI obtaining a secret court order to monitor Page in October 2016.

The story was written by Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous. It refers to unnamed U.S. law enforcement and other U.S. officials who told The Washington Post that the FBI and Department of Justice obtained the warrant on Page after “convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

The unnamed law enforcement and other U.S. officials apparently included Strzok and McCabe. McCabe’s leaks to Devlin Barrett, one of the authors of the Post’s April 11 story, on other matters are at the heart of findings by the DOJ’s inspector general that McCabe was not truthful with federal investigators.

In its April 11 article the Post declared that the FISA warrant on Page “is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump associate was in touch with Russian agents.” In reality, the FISA warrant was obtained using a fabricated dossier, and Carter Page appears never to have engaged in wrongdoing.

But the media leak strategy was never about reality. It was about appearances — creating the appearance that there was something to the Russia collusion story, so as to (1) damage President Trump’s standing and legitimacy and (2) create pressure for prosecution.

The strategy succeeded, though it took additional leaking from James Comey to reach pay dirt.

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