We’ve known for the past year and a half that bad actors in the United States intelligence community have been leaking anti-Trump information to the media.
Now it appears congressional Republicans may have identified who the culprits behind some of these leaks are.
New text messages between FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page provided to lawmakers and reviewed by The Hill have prompted Republican-led House and Senate committees to investigate whether leaders of the Russia counterintelligence investigation leaked classified information to the news media. Not only do the texts strongly suggest the pair leaked, they also show them digging up personal information about a New York Times reporter, and savaging media personalities — including Megyn Kelly.
One exchange shortly before Election Day 2016 indicates that Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page had prior knowledge about an article that appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
“Article is out, but hidden behind paywall so can’t read it,” Page texted Strzok on Oct. 24, 2016.
“Wsj? Boy that was fast,” Strzok texted back. “Should I ‘find’ it and tell the team?”
The two FBI agents discussed how they would make it look like they stumbled upon the article so it could be shared with colleagues.
“I can get it like I do every other article that hits any Google News alerts, seriously,” Strzok wrote, adding he didn’t want his team hearing about the article “from someone else.”
Strzok went from being a key member of the 2016 counterintelligence investigation to being a key member of the special counsel Russia probe until he was removed last summer by Robert Mueller for exchanging anti-Trump text messages with Page. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Strzok and Page referred to then-candidate Trump as a “loathsome human being,” “an idiot,” “awful,” and a “douche,” among other insults. Strzok also indicated that he would vote for Hillary Clinton, even though he had led the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a private server while secretary of State.
In a string of text messages five days before Election Day 2016, Page alerted Strzok to a story in The Washington Post about the Clinton email investigation.
Page referred to a conversation she’d had with FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki, and expressed discomfort with the level of detail in the FBI’s timeline.
“Sorry, Rybicki called. Time line (sic) article in the post (sic) is super specific and not good. Doesn’t make sense because I didn’t have specific information to give.”
The two groused about another news article a few days later, complaining that it was anti-FBI. “Yep, the whole tone is anti-Bu. Just a tiny bit from us,” Strzok texted Page.
Page texted back: “Makes me feel WAY less bad about throwing him under the bus to the forthcoming CF article.” According to The Hill, congressional investigators are trying to figure out “what the ‘CF article’ reference means and who the agents thought they were trying to throw ‘under the bus.'”
Republicans want to interview Page to determine if she assisted with any “forthcoming” articles or helped another FBI employee “give” information to the news media, particularly because she helped advise then-deputy director McCabe.
Likewise, congressional investigators want to question Strzok about what he meant about the “tiny bit from us” reference.
The two agents also spent extensive time shortly before the 2016 election trying to track down information — including an address and a spouse’s job — about The New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo, who has reported on numerous developments in the Russia case.
The fact that Strzok, a counterintelligence agent, was snooping into a reporter’s personal business should send a chill down every journalist’s spine.
“We got a list of kids with their parents’ names. How many Matt Apuzzo’s (sic) could there be in DC,” Page texted. “Showed J a picture, he said he thinks he has seen a guy who kinda looks like that, but always really schlubby. I said that sounds like every reporter I have ever seen.”
Page wrote back a minute later: “Found what I think might be their address, too.”
Strzok added, “He’s TOTALLY schlubby. Don’t you remember?”
Page later added that she found information on the reporter’s wife too. “Found address looking for her. Lawyer.”
Strzok, apparently cognizant of how these texts would look if they were monitored, cautioned Page against using her work phone to track down information on a member of the media. “I wouldn’t search on your work phone, ,,, no idea what that might trigger,” he texted.
“Oops. Too late,” she wrote back.
The Justice Department reportedly has 27 ongoing criminal leak investigations, including the Justice Department inspector general’s investigation.
Former FBI Director James Comey, on whose watch the Russia case began, has previously testified he did not authorize or engage in leaking while in office, though he admitted arranging a leak after he was fired by President Trump last spring in hopes it would prompt a special prosecutor appointment.
Separately, the House Intelligence Committee says it has obtained information that Mueller’s current deputy in the Russia probe, respected Justice Department financial fraud prosecutor Andrew Weissman, had contact with the news media last April, shortly before Mueller was named special prosecutor, according to a letter the committee has sent the department.
In a deal with current FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Justice officials have promised to provide the Intelligence Committee with information on the Weismann contacts later this week.
“I understand that your office is researching records related to the details of an April 2017 meeting between DOJ Attorney Andrew Weissman (now the senior attorney for Special Counsel Robert Mueller) and the media, which will also be provided to this Committee by close of business on Thursday, January 11, 2018,” Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) wrote in the letter.
The pair responded to the opening of Trump’s new hotel in Washington with downright contempt.
“That’s one place I hope I never stay in,” Page wrote.
Strzok replied. “Agreed. I hope it fails horribly.”
Strzok also apparently had a low opinion of right-of-center news outlets, calling an article about disgruntled agents unhappy with the outcome of the Clinton email case “stupid,” and referring to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace as a “turd.”
The catty Strzok also had uncharitable things to say about then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly after one of the debates. “Vaguely satisfying to see Megyn Kelly (who had Botox and looks HORRIBLE) utterly going after Trump,” he texted, sounding somewhat Trumpian himself.
The Hill’s John Solomon and Fox News contributor Sara Carter appeared on Fox News’ Hannity to discuss the newly released texts.
“Congressional investigators certainly have a strong suspicion that these text messages point to an operation inside the FBI that was leaking information, spinning reporters, tracking down reporters,” Solomon said. “There’s a whole effort where the two of them were trying to track down the great reporter from The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo — and why else would they be trying to track down a reporter unless someone wanted to talk to him?” he asked.
Solomon added that he read through hundreds of the texts over the weekend and came away with one impression: “I remember the moment when James Comey in his testimony said, ‘FBI agents don’t give a rip about politics and they don’t leak’ — after you read these messages, you walk away thinking, these two FBI agents cared a lot about politics and they were monitoring the media almost like they were a press office.”