Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page has confirmed to Congress members that when lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok told her in a text message “there’s no big there there,” he was referring to the quality of the allegation of Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election.
Citing multiple witnesses to the closed-door meeting one week ago, Page, who was in an extra-marital relationship with Strzok at the time of the text, made the confirmation “in the most pained and contorted way,” reported investigative reporter John Solomon for The Hill.
Solomon noted it’s no longer in dispute that Strzok and Page held animus for the subject of their Russia probe, Donald Trump, or that they openly discussed using the powers of their office to “stop” Trump from becoming president.
“The only question is whether any official acts they took in the Russia collusion probe were driven by those sentiments,” he wrote, which is the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.
The answer, Solomon wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill, is found in five words of their May 19, 2017, exchange: “there’s no big there there.”
Significantly, Solomon points out, the text was written two days after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee an investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“The admission is deeply consequential,” Solomon wrote. “It means Rosenstein unleashed the most awesome powers of a special counsel to investigate an allegation that the key FBI officials, driving the investigation for 10 months beforehand, did not think was ‘there.'”
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Solomon also finds significance in the fact that on the day of the text message, Strzok and Page were debating whether they should stay with the FBI and try to rise through the ranks to the level of an assistant director, an AD, or join Mueller’s special counsel team.
“Who gives a f*ck, one more AD like [redacted] or whoever?” Strzok wrote before suggesting a more attractive role: “An investigation leading to impeachment?”
Page, writes Solomon, apparently realized the conversation had gone too far.
“We should stop having this conversation here,” she replied, adding later it was important to examine “the different realistic outcomes of this case.”
Strzok, using his FBI-issued smartphone, answered a few minutes later with an assessment of the Russia evidence.
“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 there’s no big there there.”
Solomon concludes: “So the FBI agents who helped drive the Russia collusion narrative — as well as Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller — apparently knew all along that the evidence was going to lead to ‘nothing’ and, yet, they proceeded because they thought there was still a possibility of impeachment.”
Strzok, who was the lead investigator in the FBI’s probes of both Hillary Clinton’s abuse of classified information and Russian interference in the 2016 election, was a member of Mueller’s special counsel team before being removed when Horowitz released the text message exchanges revealing his anti-Trump bias and actions.
In an open House hearing July 13, he was not as cooperative as Page apparently was during the closed hearing a day later, defiantly insisting his political bias and animus toward Trump had no bearing on his work.