The Justice Department has informed the Washington watchdog Judicial Watch that the FBI plans to ask the two members of the investigation of alleged Trump-Russian collusion whose anti-Trump bias was exposed in their text messages to preserve any agency records they have on their personal communication accounts and devices.
The FBI’s instructions to FBI counter-intelligence agent Peter Strzok and former bureau lawyer Lisa Page were in response to a request by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information, or FOIA, lawsuit.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley called for the Department of Justice to release unredacted copies of the infamous texts between Strzok and Page, the Daily Caller reported.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Grassley said that if the Justice Department continues “to refuse to provide fully unreacted copies to Congress,” he must present the “legal basis for withholding that information.”
Judicial Watch has more than 30 FOIA lawsuits under way related to investigations by the Justice Department and FBI of Hillary Clinton and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Strzok, who served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, oversaw the FBI’s interviews of former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser. And he played a lead role in the investigation of Clinton’s mishandling of classified information. Strzok changed former FBI Director James Comey’s language about Hillary Clinton’s actions from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless,” forming the basis for not referring criminal charges.
He is also suspected of being responsible for using the unverified Steele dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on President Trump’s campaign.
Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team in August after the stridently pro-Clinton and anti-Trump texts with Page were discovered. He and Page, who worked for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, were found to have been carrying on an extramarital affair.
Text messages between Strzok and Page released in February indicating President Obama “wants to know everything we are doing” regarding the Trump-Russia probe are growing in significance as more evidence surfaces that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign.
Former U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy wrote in a National Review column Wednesday that the Strzok-Page emails “are a window into how the Obama administration regarded the two investigations in which Strzok and Page were central players,” Clinton and Trump-Russia.
The FBI, McCarthy wrote, “saw them as inseparably linked: Trump’s victory in the primaries, the opening of his path to the Oval Office, meant — first and foremost — that the Hillary investigation had to be brought to a close.”
Fitton: FBI’s ‘purposeful slow-walking’
“The FBI has been slippery when it comes to records about the Clinton and Russia scandal fiascos, so we’re pleased the bureau is taking steps to make sure government records don’t go missing,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
But Fitton said the FBI has engaged in a “purposeful slow-walking of the Strzok-Page materials,” which “shows contempt for both transparency law and the public interest in figuring out how and why the FBI was politicized to target President Trump, while protecting Hillary Clinton.”
The Judicial Watch president said FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should step up and speed up the release of these documents.”
On May 21, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the FBI to begin processing 13,000 pages of previously undisclosed emails exchanged exclusively between Strzok and Page between Feb. 1, 2015, and December 2017.
The first 500 pages of records are to be processed by June 29.
Day’s prior to the judge’s order, Judicial Watch filed a joint status report in federal court regarding the production of Strzok-Page documents.
According to the report, between April 5 and May 4, 2018, the FBI processed only 35 pages of requested records, identified as travel requests, authorizations, vouchers and expense reports for Strzok and Page, and just 16 pages were released.