The loss of five months’ worth of text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and DOJ attorney Lisa Page could form the basis for attorneys for President Donald Trump to call for an end of the Russia investigation, arguing it is a politically motivated scheme.
On Friday, Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, received a letter from the Department of Justice Friday explaining texts between Strzok and Page from Dec. 14, 2016, to May 17, 2017, were not available, The Daily Caller reported.
“The Department wants to bring to your attention that the FBI’s technical system for retaining text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices failed to preserve text messages for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page,” wrote Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the DOJ.
“The result was that data that should have been automatically collected and retained for long-term storage and retrieval was not collected,” Boyd explained.
The May 17, 2017, date may be significant because that is the date former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to head the Russia investigation.
Both Strzok and Page worked on the Russia probe during the time frame in question (Dec. 2016 to May 2017), and may have potentially exchanged additional messages about Trump or the investigation.
Strzok was removed by Mueller in the summer of 2017 after the Department of Justice’s inspector general discovered texts between the FBI agent and his mistress, FBI attorney Page, showing a strong anti-Trump bias. Strzok wrote of an “insurance policy” in case Trump won the presidency in one of the texts.
“The fact that now nearly half a year’s worth of text messages between Strzok and Page during the time leading up to Robert Mueller‘s appointment as Special Counsel weren’t preserved by the Justice Department will surely fuel motions from Team Trump’s lawyers against the investigation,” according to Law & Crime.
The site noted that “months of text messages don’t just disappear.”
Trump’s legal team will reportedly argue if a case is ever brought that those missing texts could include exculpatory evidence of FBI investigator bias being denied his defense, which could be the basis for a dismissal of the case.
“It depends on what FBI’s retention policy is for text messages. It does certainly raise questions as to how these five months came up missing,” explained Bill Thomas, a former federal prosecutor, specifically in relation to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Mannafort, but the same would apply to all of Trump’s associates and the president himself.
“However, the court is not going to just dismiss the case. If it comes to it, the judge may hold a hearing to get to that information through calling witnesses. Dismissal is the nuclear option, it would have to be something very very egregious for a court to dismiss the case.”
Along with the disclosure that months of Strzok and Page’s texts were missing, Boyd handed over 384 pages of additional text messages between the two exchanged during the 2016 campaign.
In one dated July 1, 2016, the FBI officials indicated they knew former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would not be charged with a crime, despite former FBI director James Comey stating the next week at a news conference that only he knew the decision, Fox News reported.
Regarding the infamous meeting at the Phoenix airport in late June 2016 between former President Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Strzok texted, “Timing looks like hell.”
“Yeah, that is awful timing,” Page replied. In a later message, she added, “It’s a real profile in couragw (sic), since she knows no charges will be brought.”
Following news breaking of the meeting, Lynch publicly recused herself from the Clinton investigation, putting it in Comey’s hands to make the call whether to prosecute.
The FBI interviewed Clinton regarding her use of a private, unsecured email server on July 2, 2016, with Strzok among those present. Comey announced four days later that despite the former secretary of state’s “extremely careless” handling of classified information, no charges would be brought.
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