In what appears to be an orchestrated leak, both the Washington Post and New York Times reported on Saturday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed an FBI agent from the Russia collusion investigation in July over anti-Trump text messages. And the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is ready to slap contempt of Congress citations on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray because they have been keeping that information from his committee since August.
Peter Strzok is considered one of the agency’s “most experienced and trusted counterintelligence investigators,” according to the Times. Interestingly enough, he also played a critical role in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation. He exchanged the anti-Trump text messages with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer with whom Strzok was having an extramarital affair.
Is this starting to sound like a soap opera? It gets better.
The Post reported that Strzok and Page exchanged text messages that “expressed anti-Trump sentiments and other comments that appeared to favor Clinton.”
Strzok’s transfer to the FBI’s human resources department in July was an obvious, eyebrow-raising demotion that attracted the attention of the House Intel chair.
Rep. Devin Nunes told the Washington Examiner that his committee has been trying to get that very information for months — only to be stonewalled by the FBI.
Enraged, Nunes is now demanding that the FBI and Department of Justice explain why they refused to reveal the reason Mueller kicked a key supervising FBI agent off the Trump-Russia investigation, after being subpoenaed and repeatedly asked about it.
According to the Examiner’s Byron York, “the committee had issued a subpoena that covered information about Strzok’s demotion more than three months ago.”
On Oct. 11, Nunes met with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. In that meeting, Nunes specifically discussed the committee’s request for information about Strzok.
In an Oct. 31 committee staff meeting with the FBI, bureau officials refused a request for information about Strzok.
On Nov. 20, the committee again requested an interview with Strzok. (Three days earlier, on November 17, Strzok met with the Senate Intelligence Committee.)
On Nov. 29, Nunes again spoke to Rosenstein, and again discussed Strzok.
On Dec. 1, the committee again requested to speak with Strzok.
The FBI and DOJ blew Nunes off only to leak about the demotion to the Post and Times on Dec. 2. In both papers, unnamed federal law enforcement officials explained why the feds were reluctant to share the information. The Post reported that “there is great concern that exposure of the texts they exchanged may be used by the president and his defenders to attack the credibility of the Mueller probe and the FBI more broadly,” and the Times reported that “the existence of the text messages is likely to fuel claims by Mr. Trump that he is the target of a witch hunt.”
If the shoe fits.
Some might say that the attempt to hide the text messages looks like an indication of consciousness of guilt on the part of Mueller and his team.
At any rate, Nunes is seeing red.
“By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility,” he said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “This is part of a months-long pattern by the DOJ and FBI of stonewalling and obstructing this committee’s oversight work, particularly oversight of their use of the Steele dossier. At this point, these agencies should be investigating themselves.”
Now Nunes says the DOJ — after stonewalling for months — is suddenly willing to meet some of the committee’s demands for information.
“The DOJ has now expressed — on a Saturday, just hours after the press reports on Strzok’s dismissal appeared — a sudden willingness to comply with some of the committee’s long-standing demands,” Nunes said in the statement. “This attempted 11th-hour accommodation is neither credible nor believable, and in fact is yet another example of the DOJ’s disingenuousness and obstruction.”
According to the Examiner, Nunes has “instructed committee staff to draw up a contempt of Congress citation for Rosenstein and for FBI Director Christopher Wray.” The chairman has given the FBI and DOJ until the end of December to meet all the committee’s outstanding demands — or else he will take action on the citations.