The Justice Department is sifting through 10,000 text messages involving the FBI agent who was kicked off of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation for making anti-Trump comments.
Fox News reports that the bureau is reviewing “several months” worth of messages that the agent, Peter Strzok, exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI attorney with whom he was having an affair.
The Justice Department is searching the texts before turning them over to the House Intelligence Committee, a process which could take “weeks.”
The Justice Department’s inspector general discovered over the summer that Strzok and Page exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton text messages last year. After the watchdog informed Mueller’s office, Strzok was “immediately” removed from the Russia investigation, a spokesman for Mueller said over the weekend.
Details of Strzok’s removal were kept secret for months. ABC News reported back in August that Strzok had been demoted from Mueller’s team to the FBI’s human resources division. Attempts to find out the rationale were met by “no comments” from Mueller’s office.
Page left Mueller’s team in July, before the DOJ inspector general notified the special counsel’s office of the text exchanges.
Strzok’s political leanings are significant because of his central importance to FBI’s investigation of possible Trump campaign collusion as well as of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email system.
As the FBI’s No. 2 counterintelligence official, Strzok was tapped at the end of July 2016 to oversee the Russia investigation. He was also a top investigator on the email probe. He interviewed Hillary Clinton and several of her top aides last year about Clinton’s email server, which contained thousands of classified documents.
Strzok was also involved in developing then-FBI Director James Comey’s talking points for his July 5, 2016 statement clearing Clinton of any criminal charges.
As part of the Russia investigation, Strzok conducted the Jan. 24 interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn. The retired lieutenant general pleaded guilty last Friday to lying to the FBI during that interview about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
In contrast, Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills appear to have given contradictory statements about their knowledge of Clinton’s server during their interviews with Strzok. They faced no legal ramifications, though.
The House Intelligence Committee is particularly interested in finding out details about Strzok’s role in handling the infamous Steele dossier.
Republicans on the panel are trying to find out whether the FBI used the dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against Trump campaign members. Trump and his campaign associates have denied allegations made against them in the dossier, which was financed by the Clinton campaign and DNC.