The Associated Press is reporting that the Department of Justice has given congressional investigators additional text messages between FBI investigator Peter Strzok and his girlfriend Lisa Page. The FBI also told investigators that five months worth of text messages, between December 2016 and May 2017, are unavailable because of a technical glitch.
New text messages highlighted in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray by Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are from the spring and summer of 2016 and involve discussion of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. They reference Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to accept the FBI’s conclusion in that case and a draft statement that former FBI Director James Comey had prepared in anticipation of closing out the Clinton investigation without criminal charges…
In addition to the communications already made public, the Justice Department on Friday provided Johnson’s committee with 384 pages of text messages, according to a letter from the Wisconsin lawmaker that was obtained by The Associated Press.
But, according to the letter, the FBI told the department that its system for retaining text messages sent and received on bureau phones had failed to preserve communications between Strzok and Page over a five-month period between Dec. 14, 2016, and May 7, 2017. The explanation for the gap was “misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities.”
Technical glitches obviously do happen but I can’t help getting a bit of a Lois Lerner flashback upon hearing that five months of messages are missing from the time right after Trump was elected until 10 days before Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel. So if you were hoping for any follow up on that comment about an insurance policy, it looks like you can forget it. That’s a well-timed glitch.
But it seems the DOJ did turn over some additional texts that are worth considering. One involves an early draft of the Comey memo clearing Hillary Clinton. Originally the draft pointed out that Clinton had exchanged emails with President Obama while she was “on the territory” of a hostile power. Eventually, Obama’s name was scrubbed from the document and finally all reference to the incident was removed. So that’s one more example of the statement being watered down over time. And finally there is this:
In another exchange, the two express displeasure about the timing of Lynch’s announcement that she would defer to the FBI’s judgment on the Clinton investigation. That announcement came days after it was revealed that the attorney general and former President Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting aboard her plane in Phoenix, though both sides said the email investigation was never discussed.
Strzok said in a July 1 text message that the timing of Lynch’s announcement “looks like hell.” And Page appears to mockingly refer to Lynch’s decision to accept the FBI’s conclusion in the case as a “real profile in courag(e) since she knows no charges will be brought.”
Lynch never did recuse herself from the investigation, but because of the tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, she did announce on July 1st that she would accept the decision of the FBI. Comey would make his statement clearing Hillary of any criminal wrongdoing on July 5th. But based on this text, it sounds as if Lynch was already aware what the FBI Director’s conclusion was going to be. Comey himself had suggested Lynch appeared biased in the email probe and that he felt the need to act independently from her. From the NY Times:
“The Clinton campaign, at the time, was using all kind of euphemisms — security review, matters, things like that, for what was going on,” Mr. Comey said on Thursday. “We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation?
“And she said, ‘Yes, but don’t call it that, call it a matter,’” Mr. Comey continued. “And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ And she said, ‘Just call it a matter.’”
Mr. Comey said the “conclusive” episode that persuaded him to make his own announcement in the Clinton investigation rather than leave it to Ms. Lynch came last June, when former President Bill Clinton spontaneously boarded her plane on a tarmac and sat down to talk with her.
“That was the thing that capped it for me, that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the F.B.I. and the Justice Department,” Mr. Comey said.
So the story was that Lynch was biased (she was) but that Comey acted to protect the independence of the investigation. In fact, Lynch knew what Comey was going to say days before he said it. So what was the point of her offer to respect his decision, an offer that seems designed to make it appear she had no idea what he might decide? There might be some innocent explanation of all this but the whole story features a lot of die-hard Clinton cronies who seem to be doing their best to protect Hillary beneath a thin veneer of impartiality. In fact, what happened at the FBI looks more and more like what happened at the DNC.