'Scrupulous' Obama in 2016 Claimed, 'I Do Not Talk to FBI Directors About Pending Investigations'
Former President Obama once insisted that there was "a strict line" that prevented him from getting involved in pending investigations, but did he sometimes cross that line?
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released additional Strzok/Page text messages on Wednesday as part of a majority staff report titled “The Clinton Email Scandal And The FBI’s Investigation Of It.
One text causing raised eyebrows today seems to implicate the president: "potus wants to know everything we're doing," former FBI lawyer Lisa Page texted to her paramour, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, on Sept. 2, 2016. She said that she had just been in a meeting to discuss "TPs for D" (talking points for the director, i.e. FBI Director James Comey) to brief the president on their investigation.
The rabidly anti-Trump Strzok played a key role in the Clinton email and Russia investigations.
While it's not clear which investigation Page was referring to in the text, it looks bad for Obama because he had forcefully claimed throughout 2016 that he does not get involved with pending investigations. "FULL STOP."
Fox News' Chris Wallace asked him about widespread concerns that the Clinton email case was being handled on political grounds. Obama stressed that there was "a strict line" that he never crossed. "I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations," he insisted.
"I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI -- not just in this case, but in any case. FULL STOP. PERIOD. Guaranteed. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department," he said.
During a White House news conference on Dec. 16, 2016, Obama discussed the FBI and Director James Comey, saying, “It is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work they are doing and the political system.” But he insisted that he personally had always been scrupulous about staying out of investigations.
"One thing that I have done is to be pretty [scrupulous] about not wading into investigations and decisions and prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute," Obama told reporters. "I have tried to be very strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement -- free from my own judgments and political assessments in some cases. And I don't know why it would stop now," he added.