Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Monday for a review of the nearly five months of missing text messages after the bureau revealed Friday that thousands of text messages between embattled FBI Special Agent Peter Stzrok and mistress FBI attorney Lisa Page — both at the center of the investigation alleging President Trump’s campaign was colluding with the Russians — are missing.
Current FBI agents say they are “outraged” by the bureau’s revelation and members of both the House and Senate say they want a full investigation into bureau’s claims that its system had “failed to preserve” the text messages between the pair of agents from December 14, 2016, through May 17, 2017.
According to the DOJ, there were more than 50,000 text messages between the two, who were reprimanded by the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller for sending a trove of anti-Trump text messages to one another, while part of the investigation. The text messages appeared to reveal a concerted effort to undermine Trump and the election.
“If any wrongdoing were to be found to have caused this gap, appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken,” stated Sessions. “We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source. If we are successful, we will update the congressional committees immediately.”
“A technical glitch, are you shitting me?” said a former senior FBI official
According to DOJ officials, the Inspector General has been reviewing the texts between Page and Stzrok based on the recent “allegations that Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed…and that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations.”
Senator Roy Johnson, the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray stressing “the loss of records from this period is concerning because it is apparent from other records that Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page communicated frequently about the investigation.”
Six congressional committees made the request to the Department of Justice for FBI text messages between Strzok and Page. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Monday that he has spoken “to the Inspector General and a review is already underway to ascertain what occurred and to determine if these records can be recovered in any other way.”
The DOJ agreed to produce the records as quickly as possible, said Sessions. It also appears that Strzok and Page were aware before a decision was made by former FBI Director James Comey that charges would not be filed against then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to send classified messages, according to an additional 400 pages of text messages recently made available to Congress.
According to a former senior FBI official, the DOJ required the FBI in 2015 to archive all text messages and emails. Sources with knowledge say it appears that the messages sent on their FBI Samsung 5 during those months were never captured by the internal server after an apparent conflict with an upgrade on the phone, according to Johnson’s letter. The FBI had told Stephen Boyd, the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs, that due to FBI-provided Samsung 5 mobile phones with software upgrades that “conflicted,” with “collection capabilities,” the text messages were not recorded, Johnson’s letter states.
The months of missing text messages are crucial, say former and current U.S. officials, as it was during that time frame that the Obama Administration had ramped up its investigation into then President-elect Trump and began to increase the unmasking of his associates, including former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
“A technical glitch, are you shitting me,” said a former senior FBI official, with knowledge of how the program works. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject.
“Do you realize how convenient this is and this shows how deep the problem is inside the bureau? I would have the records and management guy subpoenaed. Congress should be livid right now.”
Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Justice Department, wrote to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of HSGAC, on Friday telling him “the Department wants to bring to your attention that the FBI’s technical system for retaining text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices failed to preserve text messages for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.”
A congressional official told this reporter that the This is pretty blatant Its hard to make those things disappear …They would take some kind of a hit on this – but this may be a smaller hit than
Former and current bureau agents …They are trying to get us to believe that everything up until that time
Is it all FBI phones messages that are missing for those months or just these two – they should grab every text message sent between leadership on the 7th Floor –
Flynn’s name and the highly classified private conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were leaked to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius in January 2016. Shortly after the story broke, Flynn was removed from his post at the White House.
Strzok was one of two FBI agents who interviewed Flynn on Jan. 24, at the White House, as reported earlier. The other FBI special agent, who interviewed Flynn, is described by sources as a field supervisor in the “Russian Squad, at the FBI’s Washington Field Office,” according to a former intelligence official, with knowledge of the interview.
The Special Counsel’s Office removed Strzok from his role after it was discovered he had made disparaging comments about President Trump in text messages to Page, according to the New York Times and Washington Post, which first reported the stories.
Strzok is also under investigation by the Department of Justice Inspector General for his role in Hillary Clinton’s email server and the ongoing investigation into Russia’s election meddling.