FBI Officials Discussed ‘Media Leak Strategy’ Ahead of Major Trump-Russia Revelation
Newly released text messages show disgraced FBI official Peter Strzok asked to speak to former FBI lawyer Lisa Page about a “media leak strategy” during a crucial period of the Trump-Russia investigation in 2017.
The text messages were revealed Monday by North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, a member of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee.
“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,” Meadows wrote to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the letter, which was obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation and first reported by Sara Carter.
Meadows pointed to text messages Strzok sent to Page on April 10, 2017, and April 12, 2017.
In the first message, Strzok, who then served as deputy chief of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, wrote to Page that: “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.”
Strzok was at that time the lead investigator on the FBI’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. He joined the special counsel’s investigation after it was formed in May 2017. He was removed from the investigation in July 2017 after the discovery of anti-Trump text messages that he exchanged with Lisa Page. He was fired from the FBI on Aug. 10 of this year.
In one Aug. 8, 2016, message, Strzok told Page that President Donald Trump would never become president, because “We’ll stop it.”
Meadows says in his letter that an April 12, 2017, text message shows Strzok congratulating Page while referring to two damaging articles about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Meadows wrote that “in the text, Strzok warns Page two articles are coming out, one which is ‘worse’ than the other about Lisa’s ‘namesake.’”
“Well done, Page,” Strzok wrote. It is unclear if he was referring to Lisa Page or Carter Page.
The text messages were included in a batch of records recently provided to Congress. The FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) were initially unable to recover messages that Strzok and Page exchanged from December 2016 to May 2017. The DOJ’s inspector general was ultimately able to find the messages.
Meadows, a staunch ally of Trump, said the texts suggest “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.”
Aitan Goelman, an attorney for Strzok, disputed Meadows’ characterization of the text messages.
“The term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media. The President and his enablers are once again peddling unfounded conspiracy theories to mislead the American People,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Meadows notes that on April 11, 2017, The Washington Post broke the story that the FBI had obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page.
While Strzok told Congress in a July 12 hearing that he did not speak to the media during the course of the Trump-Russia probe or the Hillary Clinton email investigation (Strzok worked on that case as well), Lisa Page is known to have talked to the media about ongoing investigations.
Page, who served as general counsel to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, provided information in October 2016 to Devlin Barrett, a Wall Street Journal reporter at the time, about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe was fired as deputy director of the FBI after he falsely denied that he authorized Page to speak Barrett. Barrett left the Journal in 2017 for WaPo, and is one of the reporters who broke the Carter Page story.
“Evidence suggests senior officials at the FBI and DOJ communicated with other news outlets beyond the Washington Post, as well,” Meadows said in his letter to Rosenstein.
Meadows said that in light of the new information, congressional Republicans are requesting a review of text messages, emails and other communications from FBI and DOJ officials Stuart Evans, Michael Kortan and Joseph Pientka for the period between June 2016 and June 2017.
This article has been updated with comment from Strzok’s attorney.
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