Another batch of text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page has revealed another interesting tidbit about the early stages of the Clinton email investigation. Apparently, there was some discussion of appointing a Special Counsel to investigate the case, though any decision would have been made by the DOJ, i.e. by Loretta Lynch. In the texts, Strzok suggested former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald would be a good fit for the job. From Politico:
The proposal for a special counsel appears to have arisen in March 2016, relatively early in the FBI’s inquiry into Clinton’s email use, based on a limited set of texts exchanged by senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page that were made public by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.
While it appears from the messages that the idea of a special prosecutor was discussed at high-level FBI meetings, it is unclear whether the thought of naming Fitzgerald to that job was as widely discussed.
“Thought of the perfect person [FBI Director James Comey] can bounce this off of?” Strzok wrote in a March 18, 2016 text to Page. “Pat….You got to give me credit if we go with him….And delay briefing him on until I can get back and do it, Late next week or later.”
The story arises from a letter Sen. Chuck Grassley sent FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday. In the letter, Grassley raises his concerns about the impartiality of the FBI in the Clinton investigation. Under the heading “Pulling punches on the Clinton investigation” Grassley cites another exchange between Strzok and Page which took place a month earlier [emphasis added by Grassley]:
On February 25, 2016, Strzok and Page discussed via text how many personnel from DOJ and FBI would be included in the Clinton investigation and what the best ratio should be. In that discussion, Ms. Page issued the following warning to Mr. Strzok, about dealing with Secretary Clinton:
Page: One more thing: she might be our next president. The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think
she’s going to remember or care that it was more doj than fbi?
Strzok: Agreed. I called Bill and relayed what we discussed. He agrees. I will email you and [redacted] same.
That certainly makes it sound as if the FBI is looking to tread lightly when it comes to Clinton from the very outset of the email investigation. Did that desire not to get on Hillary’s bad side also play a role in the DOJ decision not to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the matter?
Recall that James Comey testified that Loretta Lynch, who would have been the person making that decision, asked him to call the investigation “a matter” if he testified before Congress, not an investigation. “That concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning,” Comey said.