Newly Disclosed Strzok-Page Texts Shed New Light on "Media Leak Strategy" at FBI, Justice

COMMENTARY Crime and Justice

Newly Disclosed Strzok-Page Texts Shed New Light on "Media Leak Strategy" at FBI, Justice

Sep 12, 2018 4 min read
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative Manager, Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.
Strzok-Page texts revealed “an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations.” krblokhin/Getty Images

Peter Strzok has been fired from his job at the FBI, but the hits from his text messages to his former mistress, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, just keep on coming.

In the latest development, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has written a letter to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, disclosing that the latest documents provided to his committee by the Justice Department contained Strzok-Page texts that revealed “an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations.”

Meadows, who chairs the subcommittee on government operations of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was referring to a text on April 10, 2017, in which Strzok tells Page that he wants to talk to her “about [a] media leak strategy with DOJ.”

The reason that this is significant is that on April 11, the very next day, The Washington Post broke the story that the FBI had obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to electronically eavesdrop on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page after convincing the FISA court that Page was “acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

The Washington Post article cited “law enforcement” officials as the source of its story. On April 12, the day after the story broke, Strzok sent Lisa Page another text message that, according to Meadows, congratulated her for a job “well done,” while referring to two derogatory articles about Carter Page.

As Meadows correctly points out, the story set “off a flurry of articles suggesting connections between President Trump and Russia.”

Of course, after a year and a half of the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller, there still has not been any evidence publicly revealed that shows any actual collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and agents.

Moreover, Carter Page has never been charged with being an agent of a foreign power or for any other violation of the law.

What makes this even worse is that Meadows also tells Rosenstein that other documents indicate that Andrew Weissmann “participated in unauthorized conversations with the media during this same time period,” as did other “senior officials at the FBI and DOJ.” Weissmann is a senior deputy to Mueller in the special counsel’s investigation.

None of this alleged misbehavior should be a surprise.

In June, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released his report on the handling of the separate Hillary Clinton email investigation. One of his findings was that FBI agents “widely ignored” the FBI’s policy against disclosure of confidential information about law enforcement investigations. The agents making these disclosures even “received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic events.”

The disclosure of confidential law enforcement information in a criminal investigation can irreparably damage the reputations and livelihoods of innocent individuals (not to mention presidential candidates).

It can also unduly prejudice the due process rights of those targeted in a federal investigation and prosecution.

What is especially disturbing about this is that, as Meadows says in his letter:

During our interviews with Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, FBI attorneys consistently suggested witnesses could not answer questions due to the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual’s policy for ongoing investigations.  However, documents strongly suggest that these same witnesses discussed the ongoing investigation multiple times with individuals outside of the investigative team on a regular basis.

If anyone thinks this leaking has been stopped since Horowitz criticized the FBI in his June report, think again.

Meadows says that his committee “continues to receive troubling evidence that the practice of coordinated media interactions continues to exist with the DOJ and FBI.”

In August, Meadows claimed that he had information indicating that the FBI and Justice Department leaked information to the press in order to be able to use “those same press stories as a separate source to justify FISA” warrants.

As a result of his review of this recently provided documentation, Meadows is asking Rosenstein for copies of all communications between several FBI agents and Justice Department officials and Strzok, Lisa Page, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, and Weissmann that “would provide critical insight into the backdrop of the Russia investigation.”

What Meadows didn’t ask for—but should have—is an explanation about Weissmann’s alleged meetings with the media. Did they happen, and, if so, why? Who authorized them?  What was the purpose? What confidential information was revealed? Did those communications reveal any bias by Weissmann that might affect the integrity of the ongoing investigation? Were any media stories used in any FISA applications to justify electronic surveillance?

It seems clear from Meadows’ letter that Congress and the public may still not have all of the information they need to determine whether there was a legitimate basis for the FISA warrants that authorized electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign and launched the Russian election-collusion investigation, and whether this investigation has been appropriately handled.

Horowitz’s office is investigating alleged abuses of the FISA process. Hopefully, his report will cover these issues.

It is also important that Congress get to the bottom of this, not only to protect the rights of individuals who may have been unfairly targeted by federal law enforcement agents, but also to ensure that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is an important and necessary tool in our counter-intelligence operations, was not maliciously abused for political purposes.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal