David Corn on Russia Probe: ‘FBI Prosecutors All Have Political Leanings’

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok waits for the start of a House Judiciary Committee joint hearing on Capitol Hill on July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON – MSNBC commentator David Corn said the anti-Trump text messages sent between FBI agents and the political composition of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of Democratic lawyers don’t hurt the credibility of the overall Russia probe.

According to a Politifact report on March 21, out of 17 members of the special counsel’s team whose identities have been made public at least 12 are registered Democrats. Mueller is a Republican.

Text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page emerged earlier this year. In August 2016, Page texted Strzok, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok, the agent who signed the document establishing FBI’s investigation of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, was removed from the probe last year. He recently testified before Congress that texts critical of Trump exchanged with Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair, were in “no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process, for any candidate.”

Corn, co-author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump with Michael Isikoff, was asked if he thinks the content of the text messages and the number of registered Democrats working with Mueller on the Russia probe harm the credibility of the probe.

“No. I mean, the FBI prosecutors all have political leanings and this has happened in every investigation. And Mueller himself is a Republican, so I think you have to look at the work itself. I mean, Strzok was also critical of Hillary Clinton. They leave that part out and they wanted to be very tough on her in the statement that Mueller issued. We all know people who bitch about all politicians, and so I don’t think that was determinative,” Corn, Washington bureau chief at Mother Jones, told PJM after a spring book discussion and signing organized by Politics and Prose at George Washington University.

“There was a lot of evidence. There was a lot of evidence for them to look at. It just seems to me, and I find this very sad, that Republicans and conservatives, many of them, are just really looking for anything they can to discredit an investigation into what was an attack on American democracy. Talk about being political and partisan; I mean, I don’t get it,” he added.

Corn declined to make any predictions about the final outcome of the investigation.

“I don’t predict. I make no predictions about this,” he said.

Corn told PJM that he wants to know more information related to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s contacts with former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Flynn’s sentencing on a guilty plea of lying to investigators has been delayed as he cooperates with the special counsel’s team.

“In February of 2017, Kislyak told the Washington Post that he had meetings with Flynn before Election Day and he wouldn’t say what they talked about. He wouldn’t say exactly when before Election Day this was so, to me, that’s a really very, very big open-ended question. Did they happen?” Corn said.

“When did they happen, what did they talk about? And what was Flynn talking to the Russia ambassador about if it was after August 2016, when he sat in on the intelligence briefing with Trump when the intelligence community said the Russians were doing this? Was he talking to the Russian ambassador after that about how they could work together well? Was he signaling to the Russians they didn’t mind what they were doing? I don’t know. It’s all hypothetical, but I think it’s a very important thing to look at,” he added.