In a new and potentially explosive revelation, the two pro-Clinton, anti-Trump officials at the center of a growing scandal at the agency were eager to “get around” rules requiring the preservation of their phone texts and even sought to get different phones that would make that easier.
What’s more, according to newly released texts between former agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, ignoring the archiving rules was widely accepted throughout the Obama government.
In new texts between the two released Thursday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Page wrote that she was to get an Apple iPhone, likely from the FBI’s IT director.
Texted Strzok: “Hot damn. I’m happy to pilot that...we get around our security/monitoring issues?”
Page: “No, he’s proposing that we just stop following them. Apparently the requirement to capture texts came from omb, but we’re the only org (I’m told) who is following that rule. His point is, if no one else is doing it why should we.”
While it is unclear if the iPhones were private or government, the committee raised concerns of a plot to avoid rules to capture official correspondence by using non-government phones.
Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, in a letter dated January 31 to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, “According to text messages produced to the committee, Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok make references to communicating with other FBI employees via text message, phone call, email and voicemail. Additional text messages suggest that FBI officials used non-official email accounts and messaging programs to communicate about official business.”
Strzok was pushed out of the agency after the biased texts became public, including one in which he called Trump an "idiot."
The committee is still trying to determine the context, but the two have been at the center of one of the FBI’s controversies linking the probe of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email system and the probe into Russian influence of the 2016 election. In their texts, they spouted pro-Clinton, anti-Trump feelings.
The committee has sought all of their texts and two weeks ago were advised that many were missing. The Justice Inspector General’s office, however, has found a way to recover many.
The indication that they tried to hide their texts is alarming and prompted Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, to demand more from Justice and the FBI.
In his letter laying out the issue, he demanded texts, emails, iPhone messages and voicemails dating back to January 1, 2015 and related to the Clinton and Russia probe, from 16 current and former officials, including the FBI IT chief, Page, Strzok, former FBI Director James Comey, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who left the agency this week.
McCabe was mentioned in the new texts as somebody, according to Page, “had a terrible time with his phone [redacted] which made him concerned for our folks all over the place.”
She added about her Samsung phone, “These phones suck as much as they do because of the program we use to capture texts, full stop.”
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org