- Peter Strzok sent a text message revealing that The New York Times was angry with the FBI over a scoop published by The Washington Post regarding spy warrants against Carter Page.
- President Donald Trump and his supporters have said the text message and others released this week show the FBI strategically leaked damaging stories to the media.
- An attorney for Strzok has accused Trump of “peddling unfounded conspiracy theories.”
A series of revealed text messages have generated debate about FBI contacts with the media regarding bombshell stories about the Trump-Russia probe.
The messages, which were exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, show the embattled former FBI officials discussing the FBI’s contacts with the press regarding stories related to the bureau’s collusion investigation. President Donald Trump and his allies say the messages show the FBI planted stories that were damaging to the president and members of his campaign. Trump critics, as well as Strzok’s attorney, have pushed back on that assessment.
“The President and his enablers are once again peddling unfounded conspiracy theories to mislead the American People,” Aitan Goelman, an attorney for Strzok, said in a statement Tuesday in response to a report that Strzok sent a text message referring to a “media leak strategy.” (RELATED: FBI Officials Discussed ‘Media Leak Strategy’ Ahead Of Major Trump-Russia Revelation)
The latest message, reported by Fox News contributor Sara Carter, shows Strzok, the former deputy assistant director of counterintelligence at the FBI, discussing interactions with The New York Times regarding a bombshell report about surveillance activity against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“Also, apparently Times is angry with us about the WP (Washington Post) scoop and earlier discussion we had about the Schmidt piece that had so many inaccuracies. Too much to detail here, but I told Mike (redacted) and Andy they need to understand we were absolutely dealing in good faith with them,” Strzok wrote to then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, his mistress, on April 14, 2017.
Schmidt is a likely reference to Times reporter Michael Schmidt. Mike is believed to be Michael Kortan, the former assistant director for public affairs at the FBI, according to Sara Carter, citing “several U.S. officials.” Andy is believed to be former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. (RELATED: Strzok: ‘We’ll Stop’ Trump Presidency)
“The FISA one, coupled with the Guardian piece from yesterday,” Strzok added in the text message, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
A day before the Strzok-Page exchange, The Guardian reported that British spy agencies played an early role in alerting American authorities to contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives.
Two days earlier, on April 11, 2017, The Washington Post broke the story that the FBI had obtained multiple FISA warrants against Carter Page. The story was attributed to “law enforcement and other U.S. officials.”
TheNYT confirmed the story the next day in an article sourced to “a government official.”
The stories do not state whether the unnamed officials worked for the FBI, the Justice Department or in Congress. Both articles have been corrected since their publication to note an error on the timing of the first FISA warrant against Page. Both newspapers initially reported the first FISA was granted in during summer 2016. Instead, the warrant was granted Oct. 21, 2016.
It is unclear why TheNYT would have grounds to be upset with the FBI about WaPo’s scoop.
Other text messages show that Strzok and Page discussed the Carter Page bombshell before WaPo published its article.
“I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go,” Strzok wrote to Page on April 10, 2017.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows flagged the text message in a letter he sent Monday to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Republican said the exchange “raises grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ.”
Goelman, the Strzok lawyer, pushed back on that assessment in a statement to reporters.
“The term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media,” he said.
Goelman did not respond to requests for comment about the text messages referring to TheNYT and WaPo.
Other text messages show that Strzok was aware that other government officials were leaking sensitive information to the media.
“Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad. Scorned and worried, and political, they’re kicking into overdrive,” Strzok wrote to Page on Dec. 15, 2016, Fox News reported.
The text messages do not refer to a specific news story, but on the same day, NBC News reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in Russia’s campaign-related attacks.
The text message has generated speculation about what Strzok meant by “sisters.” Some observers have theorized that he was referring to the CIA while others say he was talking about the Justice Department.
The NBC article cites anonymous “senior U.S. intelligence officials” as sources.
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