The FBI’s top agent on the Trump-Russia investigation sent a text message last year that one top Republican senator says suggests he saw no evidence of Trump campaign collusion.
The text message, which was sent by Peter Strzok, is “jaw-dropping,” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
In an interview with WISN-Milwaukee radio host Jay Weber, Johnson read aloud a May 19, 2017 text that Strzok sent to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.
Strzok wrote: “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern that there’s no big there there.”
Johnson said that the text referred to the Mueller investigation, which had kicked off two days earlier. Strzok joined that team, but was removed in July after the Justice Department’s inspector general discovered his anti-Trump text exchanges with Page.
As the FBI’s deputy counterintelligence chief, Strzok was picked in July 2016 to oversee the investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government. Prior to that, he was a top investigator on the Clinton email inquiry.
“I think that’s kind of jaw-dropping,” said Johnson, a Republican, said of the Strzok text.
“In other words, Peter Strzok, who was the FBI deputy assistant director of the counterintelligence division, the man who had a plan to do something because he just couldn’t abide Donald Trump being president, is saying that his gut sense is that there’s no big there there when it comes to the Mueller special counsel investigation,” he said.
The text message was included in 400 pages of text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page. Lawmakers have started reviewing the trove of documents for evidence of anti-Trump and pro-Clinton bias.
Johnson also addressed the revelation last Friday that the FBI “failed to preserve” five months worth of text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page. A Justice Department official told Johnson’s committee and five other congressional panels that a “misconfiguration” issue caused “many” FBI-issued mobile devices to not back up to the bureau’s servers. (RELATED: FBI ‘Failed To Preserve’ Strzok-Page Text Messages)
The FBI said it does not have text messages for Strzok and Page for the period between Dec. 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017 — the day that Mueller was appointed.
Johnson said that Congress needs to see the missing text messages because Strzok and Page were “completely unguarded in their communication.”
“So we’re getting insight into exactly what is happening inside the FBI at the highest levels. And who knows who else they might implicate in terms of corruption,” he said.
The Strozk text verbatim on joining the Mueller investigation: May 19th, 2017- ‘You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern that there’s no big there there.’
— Jay Weber (@JayWeber3) January 23, 2018
Johnson released two pages of Strzok-Page messages from May 19, 2017. They show the pair seemingly discussing the new Mueller investigation and whether they wanted to join.
The messages show that Strzok and Page discussed the historical significance of the investigation and its potential impact on their career trajectory.
“A case which will be in the history books,” Strzok wrote to Page in one text, adding that it was “maybe the most important case of our lives.”
Strzok then appeared to try to coax Page into joining the Mueller investigation.
“You would obviously excel on the team,” he said.
She responded by saying that she didn’t “understand what they need me for!”
In another text, Strzok referred to his work on the Clinton investigation.
“For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business,” he said. “I unleashed it with MYE. Now I need to fix it and finish it.”
“MYE” refers to “Mid-Year Exam,” the FBI’s code name for the Clinton investigation.
“You shouldn’t take this on,” Page then wrote. “I promise you, I would tell you if you should.”
After several exchanges discussing their positions at FBI, Strzok suggested to Page that he did not want to take on the Mueller job because of his “gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”