Oh, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, you rogue FBI lovebirds. You are the swampy gift that keeps on giving.
Sure, Page may have left the FBI and Strzok may be buried in the depths of its HR department over their anti-Trump text message spree. However, every few weeks — like clockwork — their electronic history seems to pop up in the news and throw even further doubt on the multifarious federal investigations that swarmed around the 2016 presidential election.
The latest muddiness comes from a series of text messages sent in early August of 2016 which indicate that the Obama administration was trying to take over the FBI’s investigation into alleged links between low-level Trump campaign staffers and Russia.
While anyone could probably guess the administration was involved at some level, even Strzok and Page seem troubled by the administration’s willingness to hone in on the bureau’s territory.
The messages were also revealed as part of a longer report by The Hill’s John Solomon which detailed an unsettling pattern of an FBI that may have violated its own rules in regard to contacts with informants during the Trump investigation, and which hasn’t been completely forthcoming about the timeline of the probe.
First, the messages. On Aug. 3, 2016, as the Russian probe was ramping up and the Hillary Clinton email investigation was closing up shop, Page texted Strzok: “We’re not going to withstand the pressure soon.” Texts soon revealed the two believed that other political actors — including the Department of Justice, the Obama White House and the CIA — were looking to meddle in the investigation.
“This is MUCH more tasty for one of those DOJ aholes to leak,” Strzok said during a conversation regarding how long they could delay a bureau meeting with the CIA over the Trump investigation in order to “not play into the agency’s BS game.”
“‘We’re not going to withstand the pressure soon,’ FBI lawyer Page texted fellow agent Peter Strzok on Aug. 3, 2016, days after Strzok opened the official probe and returned from a trip to London. At the time, they were dealing with simultaneous challenges: the wrap-up of the Hillary Clinton email scandal and the start of the Russia-Trump probe,” Solomon explained.
Solomon wrote that the two then discussed, albeit in vague terms, meddling from the Obama administration.
“They voiced alarm when an FBI colleague — ‘Liz’ — suggested the Obama White House was about to hijack the investigation,” Solomon wrote. “‘Went well, best we could have expected,’ Strzok texted Page after an Aug. 5, 2016, meeting. ‘Other than Liz quote “the White House is running this.” Page then texted to assure Strzok of a paper trail showing the FBI in charge: ‘We got emails that say otherwise.'”
“The next day, they went into further detail about their White House concerns,” Solomon continued. “‘So maybe not the best national security president, but a genuinely good and decent human being,’ Page texted Strzok, referencing former President Obama. Strzok replied: ‘Yeah, I like him. Just not a fan of the weakness globally. Was thinking about what the administration will be willing to do re Russia.’”
The text messages are part of new allegations that the FBI investigation into Trump began earlier than initially expected.
Solomon claimed sources say the probe began in the spring of 2016 in London, “where foreign figures contacted Trump campaign advisers and provided the FBI with hearsay allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, bureau documents and interviews of government insiders reveal. These contacts in spring 2016 — some from trusted intelligence sources, others from Hillary Clinton supporters — occurred well before FBI headquarters authorized an official counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016.”
Former FBI agent Kevin Brock said that he “sees oddities” in how the investigation was started, according to Solomon — namely, the fact that it was run centrally from the beginning as opposed to in a field office.
“These types of investigations aren’t normally run by assistant directors and deputy directors at headquarters,” Brock said.
“All that happens normally in a field office, but that isn’t the case here and so it becomes a red flag. Congress would have legitimate oversight interests in the conditions and timing of the targeting of a confidential human source against a U.S. person.”
And as you may have guessed, Congress is interested.
“The revelation of purposeful contact initiated by alleged confidential human sources prior to any FBI investigation is troublesome,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican.
Meadows has been a longtime ally of the president and, as Solomon noted, the “chairman of a House subcommittee that’s taking an increasingly aggressive oversight role in the scandal.”
“This new information begs the questions: Who were the informants working for, who were they reporting to and why has the (Department of Justice) and FBI gone to such great lengths to hide these contacts?” Meadow said.
Rep. Meadows raises a lot of interesting questions here. The FBI and DOJ are going to absurd lengths to protect the informants they used in the investigation, usually under some version of the guise that revealing them would violate the “norms” of FBI investigations.
The problem with that logic is that we have plenty of evidence that the norms have already been violated. Contact with human sources before an official investigation was opened, the centralization of the investigation at the highest levels from the start and alleged meddling by the White House may not seem huge in isolation (although that last one is pretty big), but they form part of an already established pattern in which the FBI and DOJ flagrantly disregarded their own rules and norms to chase after a Trump-Russia connection — a connection that doesn’t appear to actually be there.
This isn’t like the movies, where the FBI can be like the cop who doesn’t play by the book and nabs the rich cocaine dealer in a warehouse battle — eventually earning the respect of the angry captain who, at the beginning of the third act, was screaming “your gun, your badge, now!” in the precinct locker room.
Aside from the fact that it doesn’t actually look like they have a guilty suspect, the FBI now faces questions ranging from whether the Obama White House meddled in the investigation to credible allegations they had moles inside the Trump campaign.
In other words, sorry, Axel Foley. It’s well past time for you to turn over your notes to internal affairs. And, when it comes to your friend Strzok — well, your gun, your badge, now.
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