News & Politics

New Page/Strzok Texts Show NYT, WaPo Seeming to Compete for Scoops

The latest batch of text messages released Wednesday seem to contradict what fired FBI agent Peter Strzok’s attorney told the media about his client’s “media leak strategy.”

In an attempt to defend his client on Tuesday, Strzok’s attorney, Aitan Goelman, said, “The term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media.”

“The president and his enablers are once again peddling unfounded conspiracy theories to mislead the American people,” he said.

However, new texts, obtained by Sara A. Carter, show that Strzok and his paramour, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, were in contact with competing reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post before they published stories in the spring of 2017 about the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“Strzok specifically mentioned two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Michael Schmidt [in] his text message to Page,” Carter reported.

“Apparently Times is angry with us about the WP (Washington Post) scoop and earlier discussion we had about the Schmidt piece that had so many inaccuracies. Too much to detail here, but I told Mike (redacted) and Andy they need to understand we were absolutely dealing in good faith with them,” Strzok texted to Page on April 14, 2017. “The FISA one, coupled with the Guardian piece from yesterday.”

If that sounds like an effort to “detect and stop leaks” to you, I’m sure Strzok’s attorney has a bridge in Brooklyn he’d like to sell you.

According to several U.S. officials who spoke to Carter, the “Mike” mentioned in Strzok’s text message is Mike Kortan, the former FBI assistant director for public affairs who retired in February. “Andy,” of course, is a reference to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired earlier this year after it was revealed in DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report that he lied to investigators about leaking information to the media.

On April 11, 2017, The Washington Post broke a story titled “FBI Obtained FISA warrant to monitor former Trump advisor Carter Page,” which contained detailed information that the FBI had obtained a secret court order to monitor Page, a short-term Trump campaign volunteer, in October 2016. The story, written by Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous referred to unnamed U.S. law enforcement and other U.S. officials who told The Washington Post that the FBI and Department of Justice obtained the warrant on Page after “convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

The Washington Post suggested that the FISA warrant on Page was “the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump associate was in touch with Russian agents.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein earlier this week asking him to investigate the text from Strzok regarding the “media leak strategy.”

Prompted by the latest text messages, Meadows has also asked Rosenstein to allow the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “to review text messages, emails, and written communication form FBI and DOJ officials Stu Evans, Mike Kortan, and Joe Pientka between June 2016 to June 2017.”

In the letter, Meadows stressed, “To be clear, we are not suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Evans, Kortan, and Pientka — and, in fact, previously reviewed documents suggest that some of these individuals may share the committees’ same concerns.”

Carter Page has always denied any wrongdoing and didn’t shy away from making his case in the media in the wake of the bombshell report. In dozens of media appearances, he called the accusations against him completely false and ludicrous.

On Monday, he talked with Fox News’ Sean Hannity about his name being dragged through the mud over the past year and a half.

Hannity asked him how it felt to have been the subject of a coordinated FBI and DOJ strategy of leaking unverified information about an ongoing investigation to the media. “It’s not about me, they were just trying to get to the Trump administration and the Trump campaign,” Page said. “This is just a way of tearing down all the great things that President Trump is doing.”