On Twitter, President Donald Trump wrote on Tuesday that missing texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page is “one of the biggest stories in a long time.” Renewing his questions about the FBI’s integrity, Trump wrote online: “In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI says it is now missing five months worth of lovers Strzok - Page texts, perhaps 50,000, all in prime time. Wow!”
It was a letter that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) wrote over the weekend to FBI Director Christopher Wray that the fact of the missing texts between the Strzok and Page from Dec. 14, 2016 to May 17, 2017, was revealed. Both Strzok and Page have faced broad criticism from Republicans in the House and Senate following the earlier release of texts between them in which they criticized the president. While Strzok had been part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, he was removed following the text messages’ release. Page also worked on Mueller’s team.
The missing texts relate to a crucial time during the presidential election year and the related controversies over Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server for classified information while at Barack Obama's State Department, and allegations over collusion between the Trump political organization and Russia.
In an interview published earlier this month by The Wall Street Journal, Trump said that the texts between Page and Strzok were "treason." On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged Monday that the Justice Department would look into the missing text messages. “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,” he said in a statement released by the Justice Department.
The missing text messages
In the letter to Sen. Johnson, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote. “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 from December 14, 2016 to approximately May 17, 2017.” Boyd went on to say, “The FBI has informed [the Department of Justice] 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.”
Republicans are wondering if they can take the loss of critical evidence, due to technical problems, at face value, given the seriousness of Trump’s concerns.
BuzzFeed News published in January 2017 the uncorroborated and salacious allegations against Trump in a dossier prepared by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, and funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Republicans are charging that the FBI may have used the contents of the unproven dossier as the basis to obtain permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to snoop on the communications of Trump’s campaign staff.
Also, FBI Agent Strzok was in charge of the brief investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration. In 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey decided that Clinton’s use of the unsecure, private email server was “extremely careless” but did not merit criminal prosecution. Comey was fired by Trump in February 2017.
On March 4, 2017, Trump tweeted that Barack Obama was improperly surveilling Trump Tower before the election by having his “wires tapped.” Calling it “McCarthyism,” Trump compared the snooping to “Nixon/Watergate” while questioning its legality.
When NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers briefed president-elect Trump on November 17, 2016, of his findings of the snooping at Trump Towers, Trump moved his transition headquarters from Trump Towers to his golf club in New Jersey.
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said after reviewing the new text messages between Page and Strzok, he believes there may have been a “secret society” within the Department of Justice and FBI working to defeat Trump. Senator Johnson told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Tuesday that there is a whistleblower now informing Congress about meetings the people in the ‘secret society’ were having offsite.
“What this is all about is further evidence of corruption-more than bias but corruption at the highest levels of the FBI,” Johnson said. He went on to say: “Now ‘secret society’, we have an informant that is talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site.” When Baier interrupted Johnson and asked him to confirm that there were secret meetings, and a whistleblower, Johnson said, “Yes.” The senator also called for naming a Special Counsel to look into the corruption in the FBI and DOJ.
Limbaugh: Republicans are the Swamp
Radio host Rush Limbaugh spoke on his Tuesday show on the issue of the missing texts and the involvement of Democrats and elements of the federal government in trying to pull down Trump:
“Hillary Clinton losing threw the biggest wrench in these people’s plans, and they had the fear. They were aware she could lose. But now we’ve got a secret society — DOJ, FBI, intelligence community — some of it directly in touch with the Obama White House. No doubt in my mind. “Missing” texts that are not really missing. They are somewhere, just like Hillary’s 30,000 emails are somewhere. They’re backed up on servers. They’re backed up on devices. They are somewhere. The FBI claims they don’t have them, but they are somewhere.
“Just like Hillary’s missing 30,000 emails are somewhere. The mystery of the missing text messages between Strzok and the paramour, Lisa Page, continues to widen and deepen at the same time. It’s all too pat. It’s too easily understandable. This is easy to understand as the House Bank Scandal was back in 1988 and ’89. An FBI agent even texted about deleting the texts, warning everybody, ‘You know what? We might want to get rid of these.’”
Limbaugh also directed some of his fire at Republicans, who he asserted actually believed the assertions that the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia in the election:
“The Republicans wasted most of the first year of the Trump the presidency because they thought that the media narrative on Trump-Putin collusion was true, or they thought it was close enough that they couldn’t take any chances about going all in with Trump in case it turned out to be true and he was eventually to be impeached. They believed it.”
In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2018
Sen. Johnson speaks to Fox News about whistleblower below:
.@SenRonJohnson on alleged 'secret society' mentioned in @FBI agents' texts: "That 'secret society' - we have an informant that's talking about a group, they were holding secret meetings offsite." #SpecialReport https://t.co/0NPVFhqWiY pic.twitter.com/NaXelnfaJP— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 23, 2018