“Behind the scenes, Trump has been obsessing over the texts,” wrote Mike Allen this morning of the missing Strzok/Page correspondence. “He talks to plenty of people in his out-of-office hours, and in the residence, who fuel his sense that the intelligence community is populated by enemies out to get him — who are trying to engineer a coup and nullify his presidency.” Yeah, he hasn’t been shy about letting everyone know that:
In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2018
Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok? Blaming Samsung!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2018
Today, lo and behold, the Justice Department’s IG says he’s recovered the texts. Two possibilities. One: The texts are the smoking gun of a major conspiracy to take down the president and the “deep state” was prepared to cover them up until a few days of angry monologues on Hannity’s show scared them into handing over the goods, blowing the lid off the entire plot. Two: The texts really were lost due to a Bureau-wide glitch and there’s no reason right now to think anything incriminating is in there.
In a letter sent to congressional committees, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office “succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices, including text messages between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page that were sent or received between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.”
“Our effort to recover any additional text messages is ongoing,” Horowitz said. “We will provide copies of the text messages that we recover from these devices to the Department so that the Department’s leadership can take any management action it deems appropriate.”
If you lean towards the first possibility, that the texts disappeared due to a deliberate attempt to conceal their damning contents, what’s your theory for why five whole months of messages were deleted rather than just the particular texts that were incriminating? A five-month hole in correspondence is bound to get the attention of critics and lead to inquiries. Half a dozen missing, surreptitiously deleted incriminating messages might not. So why would Strzok and/or Page go the first route instead of the second?
Meanwhile on the Hill today, CNN tracked down Ron Johnson and asked if his sensational “secret society” claim from a few days ago was maybe just a misreading of an obvious joke from Page to Strzok. Johnson:
Here’s my exchange with Ron Johnson: https://t.co/QK3kCJFD92
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 25, 2018
It doesn’t pay to warn of a very obvious “boy who cried wolf” problem with the last few days of GOP heavy-breathing about Strzok’s and Page’s texts because the party’s already too invested in the conspiracy explanation to back out now. The “secret society” thing is a comic example of how far things have gone, with a United States senator temporarily throwing his weight behind it. The smart play now would be to take a breath and wait for the IG report, but the temperature’s too hot to let that happen. If there’s anything — anything — ambiguous in the missing Strzok and Page texts that can remotely be construed as conspiratorial, it’s going to leak and end up on Fox News primetime as the smoking gun that supposedly proves the entirety of Russiagate is a “deep state” plot. God help us if Strzok and Page ever happened to grab a slice of pizza at Comet Ping Pong and mentioned it in a text, as there’ll be entire websites devoted to spinning that out.
I wonder how long Chris Wray is going to hang in there as the president and his party go off on the FBI day after day with increasingly wild accusations. The longer it goes on without him speaking up, the more he’ll look to his deputies like a stooge who won’t stand up for their integrity. If you believe Axios, he already threatened privately to quit due to pressure from Trump and Sessions to fire Andrew McCabe. Trump probably doesn’t want the embarrassment of having to find a third FBI director in the span of a year, so Wray has some leverage here. Why doesn’t he tell the president to bring Johnson et al. to heel and let the IG process go forward without the endless dark insinuations?
Here’s Scarborough doing some scolding of his own, as is his wont.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 25, 2018