The FBI’s anti-Trump “leak strategy”

In a letter to Rod Rosenstein, Rep. Mark Meadows says that text messages and documents obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee show that senior members of the FBI and Department of Justice led a coordinated effort to leak information to the press regarding alleged collusion with Russia. The purpose was to damage the Trump administration.

The text of Meadows’ letter is here. He writes:

As you may know, we recently received a new production of documents from the [Justice] Department providing greater insight into FBI and DOJ activity during the 2016 election and the early stages of the Trump administration. Our review of these new documents raises grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations.

Review of these new documents suggests a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information in the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration. For example, the following text exchange should lead a reasonable person to question whether there was a sincere desire to investigate wrongdoing or to place derogatory information in the media to justify a continued probe.

April 10, 2017: Peter Strozk contacts Lisa Page to discuss a “media leak strategy.” Specifically, the text says: “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.”

April 12, 2017: Peter Strzok congratulates Lisa Page on a job well done while referring to two derogatory articles about Carter Page. In the text, Strzok [tells] Page two articles are coming out, one [of] which is “worse” than the other about Lisa’s “namesake.” Strzok added: “Well done, Page.”

While these two text messages alone are troubling enough, events surrounding these interactions call the motives of the investigative team into question.

For example, while Strzok and Page texted about media leaks on April 10-12, 2017 — 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 Weissmann, participated in unauthorized conversations with the media during this same period. Evidence suggests senior officials at the FBI and DOJ communicated with other news outlets beyond the Washington Post, as well.

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’s policy for ongoing investigations. 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. . . .

In light of the new information, our task force is requesting to review text messages, emails, and written communications from FBI and DOJ officials Stu Evans, Mike Kortan, and Joe Pientka between June 2016 to June 2017. To be clear, we are not suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Evans, Kortan, and Pientka — and in fact previously reviewed documents suggest that some of these individuals may share the committees’ same concerns. However, these additional documents, with an emphasis on communications between the aforementioned individuals and Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr and Andrew Weissmann, would provide critical insight into the backdrop of the Russia investigation.

(Emphasis added)

Weissmann is now a key member of Robert Mueller’s team of anti-Trump partisans. Before Mueller was appointed, Weissmann, then a high ranking DOJ official, met met with reporters from the Associated Press in April 2017, just one day before their explosive story on Paul Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine officials.

Pientka is a special agent in the FBI’s Russia division. He, along with Strzok, interviewed Michael Flynn at the White House in early 2017. That interview led to Flynn’s downfall.

McCabe was found by the DOJ’s inspector general to a have given false or misleading statements to investigators about leaks to the press. He is under grand jury investigation.

It seems clear that the the FBI and DOJ engaged in a coordinated campaign to create, in Meadows’ words, “a flurry of articles suggesting connections between President Trump and Russia.” The main immediate victim of that flurry was Carter Page who, almost a year and a half later, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The goals of the media leaks were (1) to damage President Trump’s standing and legitimacy and (2) to create pressure for prosecution. The campaign succeeded, though it took additional leaking from James Comey to reach the end zone.

How will Rosenstein respond to Rep. Meadows’ letter? Apathetically, I predict, given Rosenstein’s track record.

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