The FBI’s admission that it “failed to preserve” five months of text messages between two anti-Trump FBI employees — senior agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page — could unravel indictments brought forth by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation, according to a report from Law & Crime.
What did the report say?
With the bombshell news about the lost text messages surfacing, in addition to the revelations found in newly released messages, doubt is beginning to build around Mueller’s investigation and whether it’s truly objective.
The rising doubt will likely help those whose Mueller’s investigation has already indicted, including former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Manafort, who is fighting his indictment, may use the text messages as evidence that Mueller’s investigation is “tainted” and was corrupt even before Mueller was appointed special counsel, according to Law & Crime.
In addition to the fact the Department of Justice may be covering up wrongdoing with the mysteriously deleted text messages, Law & Crime noted it may not be far-fetched for Manafort’s indictment to be thrown out on grounds of "prosecutorial misconduct.” Because, in addition to what happened at the FBI, Strzok was a key player in Mueller’s investigation and allegedly led the team that investigated Manafort.
What are the chances of a dismissal?
According to two former federal prosecutors, the chances of Manafort’s indictment being tossed out based on the text messages alone are slim.
Bill Thomas, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told Law & Crime, "It depends on what FBI’s retention policy is for text messages. It does certainly raise questions as to how these five months came up missing."
However, the court is not likely going to simply dismiss the case. If it comes to it, the judge may hold a hearing to get to that information through calling witnesses. Dismissal is the nuclear option, it would have to be something very egregious for a court to dismiss the case.
To prove the investigation was tainted or corrupt, Thomas explained Manafort’s lawyer, or the lawyer of future defendants, would need to find evidence of “foul play."
Meanwhile, Henry Hockeimer, former assistant U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City, said the text messages only embolden conspiracy theorists.
"Though it doesn’t look good and will only further embolden conspiracy theorists, I don’t see how this could be used to attack any charges already filed or future charges," he told Law & Crime. "A judge will focus on whether clear evidence supports the charges in response to a motion to dismiss. Perhaps at trial this stuff could be used to cross examine the agent for purposes of showing bias."