Was the Obama White House behind the Department of Justice initiating a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016? Recently unearthed text messages between senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page suggest it was.
The messages were first reported by the National Review's Andrew McCarthy last week, but were brought to some attention by Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary for George W. Bush, over the weekend.
What are the details?
As McCarthy explained, many questions surrounding the origins of the FBI's counterintelligence investigation, which morphed into what is now special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, can be found in the Strzok-Page text messages. The couple was at the heart of the investigation before Strzok was re-assigned and Page left last year.
Thanks to the hard work of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, hundreds of pages of Strzok-Page text messages have been released. However, there's just one problem: they are heavily redacted, including much of the messages' contexts.
"Here, the Obama administration took extraordinary measures to withhold information from Congress about its Trump-Russia probe — such as not briefing the bipartisan leaders of the both chambers and their intelligence committees," McCarthy alleged.
But down at the bottom of McCarthy's article is a gem easily glossed over: a text message implying Obama's White House was behind the opening of the FBI's investigation.
What do the messages show?
On the afternoon of Aug. 5, 2016 — after Strzok returned from a trip to London where he met with intelligence sources for secret meetings regarding the FBI's new investigation — the two discussed a major meeting between top DOJ and CIA officials.
After that meeting, Strzok and Page had the following exchange:
Strzok: And hi. Went well, best we could have expected. Other than [REDACTED] quote: “the White House is running this.” My answer, “well, maybe for you they are.” And of course, I was planning on telling this guy, thanks for coming, we’ve got an hour, but with Bill [Priestap] there, I’ve got no control….
Page: Yeah, whatever (re the WH comment). We’ve got the emails that say otherwise.
It's not exactly clear what emails Page was referring to, but McCarthy suggested they might "clarify how the Obama administration divided responsibility for running the Trump-Russia investigation."
To conclude his article, McCarthy made an excellent point: If the government is not trying to hide information, then why are so many of the Strzok-Page text messages redacted? Is it because some information discussed is classified?
That is unlikely because both agents are highly trained in classified information and in which venues it is appropriate to discuss such information — their personal cellphones not being one of those places.
But, McCarthy wrote, "if that is the claim, are they telling us that Hillary Clinton was investigated — and given a pass — for the unauthorized transmission of classified information by FBI officials who were themselves actively engaged in the unauthorized transmission of classified information?"
"The Strzok-Page texts rate a lot more attention, and a lot more transparency," he concluded.