The Justice Department’s inspector general is looking into why the FBI did not retain five months worth of text messages, which included a series of texts exchanged by two senior members of the bureau, involved with the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated on Monday that he had discussed the missing text messages with Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, as well as whether or not the texts could be recovered.
“A review is already underway to ascertain what occurred,” he stated, according to The Washington Post.
“We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source,” Sessions said in a statement, according to The Post.
Sessions’ remarks were issued after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote a letter over the weekend to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, requesting further explanation for why the agency did not retain text messages exchanged by FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, between “approximately December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.”
Those dates are notable because “that was the date that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein tapped Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel” to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, The Post noted.
According to an earlier report, the FBI did not save text messages between Strzok and Page, who had both been involved with the investigations into Clinton and Trump. The missing texts were exchanged within the five month period Johnson noted in his letter and were reported to have ended the day special counsel had been directed to “investigate possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
The letter reportedly asserts that the Justice Department handed over texts exchanged by Strzok and Page to lawmakers.
Strzok was eventually taken off the Trump investigation team after an internal investigation revealed that he and Page — who were romantically tied — exchanged text messages said to be in favor of Clinton and against Trump, while the investigations into both presidential candidates were ongoing.
The Justice Department turned over “hundreds of pages of text messages,” as reported by The Post.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have claimed that the messages depict political bias within the FBI, at some of the highest levels of the agency.
What’s more, The Post reported that Johnson’s letter indicates that his committee received “384 pages of new Strzok-Page texts.”
However, Johnson is looking for more information regarding why the bureau did not maintain texts sent between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.
The agency had previously told the Justice Department that “many FBI-provided Samsung 5 mobile devices did not capture or store text messages due to misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities,” a Justice Department official stated in an earlier letter, according to The Post.
This resulted in “data that should have been automatically collected and retained for long-term storage and retrieval was not collected.”
Sessions, meanwhile, has indicated that if the messages are retrieved, the Justice Department will inform committees immediately.
“Six congressional committees made a request to the Department of Justice for FBI text messages between two FBI employees from July 1, 2015 to July 28, 2017, which the Department agreed to produce as quickly as possible,” Sessions said, according to The Post. “After reviewing the voluminous records on the FBI’s servers, which included over 50,000 texts, the Inspector General discovered the FBI’s system failed to retain text messages for approximately 5 months.”
The Attorney General has reportedly stated that if any wrongdoing contributed to the drop in recorded text messages, “appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken.”
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