Thousands of FBI-issued cell phones — including those used by FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — were affected by a technical glitch that prevented the devices from storing text messages on the bureau’s servers.
According to Fox News, nearly 10 percent of the FBI’s 35,000 employees were affected by the glitch, which was revealed to Congress late last week.
That adds new context to the Justice Department’s disclosure last week that the FBI “failed to preserve” text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page from between Dec. 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.
Republicans voiced skepticism over the five month text message gap, especially because it covered a crucial period in the Russia investigation.
Strzok, a former deputy counterintelligence chief, and Page, an FBI lawyer, exchanged tens of thousands of text messages in 2016 and 2017 while working on the Clinton email investigation and the Russia probe.
Strzok, who was picked to oversee the Russia investigation in July 2016, was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in July, after the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general found text messages showing that he and Page exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton messages.
The Justice Department said in its letter last week that Strzok and Page’s FBI-issued Samsung 5 mobile devices failed to back up to the FBI’s servers because of “misconfiguration issues.”
Strzok’s device last connected to the FBI’s storage system on June 18, 2016 while Page’s stopped connecting on Dec. 13, 2016. Strzok re-connected to the storage system on July 5, 2017, when he received a new Samsung device. Page’s connected on May 17 when she received a new phone. (RELATED: Sessions Says He’ll Leave ‘No Stone Unturned’ To Find Missing FBI Texts)
The FBI “pieced together” Strzok and Page’s text exchanges from June 18, 2016 to Dec. 13, 2016.
The five months after that — from Dec. 14, 2016 to May 17, 2017 — saw several major developments in the Russia investigation. The Steele dossier was published, James Comey was fired as FBI director and, on the last day of the gap, Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel.
Two days after Mueller’s appointment, Strzok sent a text message to Page which appeared to suggest that he believed that the Russia investigation would not turn up evidence of Trump campaign collusion.
“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,” he wrote on May 19, 2017. (RELATED: In ‘Jaw Dropping’ Text, Strzok Expressed ‘Concern’ Over Mueller Investigation)
In its letters to Congress, the Justice Department said only that “many” other FBI employees were affected by the glitch. The Justice Department and FBI declined comment this week on exactly how many phones were impacted.
According to Fox, the Justice Department is “taking steps” to retrieve the missing FBI texts from the bureau’s phone service providers. They are also attempting to track down Strzok and Page’s phones for a forensic review.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to “leave no stone unturned” to determine why the Strzok-Page text messages were not available.
It is unclear when Sessions learned that thousands of other FBI-issued phones were hampered by the technical glitch.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley asked the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz about inconsistencies in a letter he sent last month about Strzok and Page’s text messages.
In a Dec. 13 letter, Horowitz said that the FBI had provided “all” text messages up through July 28, 2017. He did not mention the five months of missing texts. Johnson and Grassley asked Horowitz when he was informed by the FBI and Justice Department about the lengthy gap.