Did Strzok, Page “help” the media?
Back in December, the media published texts between FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who was involved in the Russia investigation, and FBI attorney Lisa Page demeaning then-candidate Donald Trump and hoping that failed Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton would win.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller quietly removed Strzok from the investigation after he discovered the texts.
However, some of the texts also mentioned “specific reporters, news organizations and articles.” These texts have spawned a congressional probe into whether those involved “had contacts with the news media that resulted in improper leaks.”
The Hill reported:
In one exchange, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page engaged in a series of texts shortly before Election Day 2016 suggesting they knew in advance about an article in The Wall Street Journal and would need to feign stumbling onto the story so it could be shared with colleagues.
“Article is out, but hidden behind paywall so can’t read it,” Page texted Strzok on Oct. 24, 2016.
“Wsj? Boy that was fast,” Strzok texted back, using the initials of the famed financial newspaper. “Should I ‘find’ it and tell the team?”
The text messages, which were reviewed by The Hill, show the two FBI agents discussed how they might make it appear they innocently discovered the article, such as through Google News alerts.
“I can get it like I do every other article that hits any Google News alerts, seriously,” Strzok wrote, adding he didn’t want his team hearing about the article “from someone else.”
One conversation occurred five days before the 2016 election about a story in The Washington Post that included “a timeline in the controversial Hillary Clinton email investigation.” The Hill continued:
Page mentions a conversation she had just had with FBI chief of staff James Rybicki and openly expressed concern the information about the FBI’s timeline was too specific for comfort in the article.
“Sorry, Rybicki called. Time line article in the post (sic) is super specific and not good. Doesn’t make sense because I didn’t have specific information to give.”
A few days earlier Strzok texted Page about another new article, suggesting it was anti-FBI. “Yep, the whole tone is anti-Bu. Just a tiny bit from us,” he wrote.
Page texted she had seen the article. “Makes me feel WAY less bad about throwing him under the bus to the forthcoming CF article,” she texted. Congressional investigators are still trying to determine what the “CF article” reference means and who the agents thought they were trying to throw “under the bus.”
In regards to that conversation, Republicans want to ask Page “if she assisted with any ‘forthcoming’ articles or helped another FBI employee ‘give’ information to the news media, particularly because she helped advise then-deputy director McCabe.”
The investigators also want to ask Strzok what he meant when he said “tiny bit by us.”
The Congressional Committees
GOP-led panels in the House and Senate have decided to investigate these texts. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that his panel “has broad concerns that bureau officials who weren’t authorized were speaking to the media.
The House Intelligence committee has started to schedule witnesses, including Strzok and Page. Members of that panel have received “access to the remaining documents they had long sought as part of their Russia inquiry during a classified session at the Justice Department on Friday.”
This includes includes documents that show “Mueller’s current deputy in the Russia probe, respected Justice Department financial fraud prosecutor Andrew Weissman, had contact with the news media last April, shortly before Mueller was named special prosecutor.” The DOJ will hand over more information on his contacts to the panel this week.
Those on the panels want to find out if anyone in the FBI in the Russia investigation leaked information to the media. The Hill explained what makes a leak improper:
FBI contacts with the media wouldn’t necessarily be improper unless they resulted in the release of confidential law enforcement information or classified information, such as the leak last February of an intercept of then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
The Justice Department says it currently has 27 ongoing criminal leak investigations, triple the amount of the prior three years combined.
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