Newly released text messages and documents obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reveal that senior members of the FBI and Department of Justice led a coordinated effort to leak unverified information to the press regarding alleged collusion with Russia to damage President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a letter sent by the committee to the DOJ Monday.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, sent the letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying a “review of the 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.”
The review of the documents suggests that the FBI and DOJ coordinated efforts to get information to the press that would potentially be “harmful to President Trump’s administration.” Those leaks pertained to information regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant used to spy on short-term campaign volunteer Carter Page.
The letter lists several examples:
- April 10, 2017: (former FBI Special Agent) Peter Strzok contacts (former FBI Attorney) 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 warns Page two articles are coming out, one which is “worse” than the other about Lisa’s “namesake”.” Strzok added: “Well done, Page.”
The letter notes the troubling nature of the text messages. Former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions after a scathing report from the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation charging McCabe with lying to investigators and leaking to the press. Last week, the DOJ announced that McCabe is currently under a grand jury investigation.
The letter notes that the two text messages in April 2017 were during the same time frame as the FBI and DOJ officials were having conversations with reporters. During that time 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.”
Review of the 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
Meadows, who is also Chairman of the Freedom Caucus, is also demanding that the DOJ turn over more emails and text messages of other senior DOJ and FBI officials.
“In light of the new information, our task force is requesting to review text messages, emails, and written communication form FBI and DOJ officials Stu Evans, Mike Kortan, and Joe Pientka between June 2016 to June 2017,” said Meadows in the letter. “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 communication 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.”
Pientka, a Special Agent in the FBI’s Russia division, interviewed former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in early 2017 with Strzok at the White House.
So far, the FBI has not granted the committee’s permission to subpoena Pientka, who was the only other FBI agent to interview Flynn. According to former FBI Director James Comey, neither Pientka or Strzok believed Flynn was lying during their interview with him. However, Flynn still pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office spent months questioning him. Sources close to Flynn told this news outlet that Flynn was strong-armed by Mueller’s office who threatened to go after his family and mounting legal bills led to his decision.
We refrain from discussing our sources
In March this news outlet also revealed that Weissmann, a top prosecutor on the Mueller team, had 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.
According to sources familiar with the meeting, the reporters had promised to share documents and other information gleaned from their own investigation with the Justice Department.
AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton told this news outlet, “we refrain from discussing our sources.”
“Associated Press journalists meet with a range of people in the course of reporting stories, and we refrain from discussing relationships with sources. However, the suggestion that AP would voluntarily serve as the source of information for a government agency is categorically untrue,” added Easton.
At the time of the meeting, Weissmann was head of the Justice Department’s fraud division. He was the most senior member of the Justice Department to join the special counsel in May.
The AP meeting arranged by Weissmann came to light in a letter sent to Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, late last year, requesting specific FBI and DOJ documentation related to the controversial Fusion GPS dossier that alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
That meeting with the AP was attended by three different litigating offices. Two employees from the U.S. Justice Department and the other representative was from the U.S. Attorney’s office, according to the sources. FBI agents also attended the meeting, law enforcement sources confirmed.
According to sources, the FBI agents in attendance filed a complaint about Weissmann and the meeting with the DOJ fearing his arrangement of such a meeting would hurt the investigation.