New documents provided to Congress raise "grave concerns" regarding an "apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high ranking officials" at the Department of Justice and FBI, a top Republican alleged in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday.
The documents, provided by the Justice Department, detail newly released text messages between former senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress, former FBI attorney Lisa Page.
What are the details?
In his letter, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R), who chairs the House's conservative Freedom Caucus, highlights two text messages sent in April 2017 as the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump administration, and its possible connections to Russia, was ongoing.
According to Meadows, the text messages suggest a "coordinated effort" by the FBI and DOJ "to release information in the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump's administration." Specifically, Strzok tells Page he wants to discuss a "media leak strategy."
"I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go," he texted on April 10, 2017.
Two days later, Strzok "congratulates Lisa Page on a job well done while referring to two derogatory articles about Carter Page. In the text, Strzok warns Page two articles are coming out, one which is 'worse' than the other about Lisa’s "namesake".' Strzok added: 'Well done, Page,'" according to Meadows' letter.
At the time, Strzok was the lead investigator in the FBI's counterintelligence probe against the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia. He would later join special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in May 2017 upon then-FBI Director James Comey's firing. Strzok was reassigned within the FBI just two months later in July 2017 after the FBI's internal watchdog learned of the relationship and text messages between himself and Page, who also enjoyed a short stint on Mueller's team.
Meadows believes the "coordinated effort" between the FBI and DOJ was the source behind an April 11 story in the Washington Post that broke news of the Carter Page FISA applications, which Meadows said set off a "flurry of articles suggesting connections between President Trump and Russia."
The latest Strzok/Page messages "should lead a reasonable person to question whether there was a sincere desire to investigate wrongdoing or to place derogatory information in the media to justify a continued probe," Meadows told Rosenstein.
Does such communication continue today?
According to Meadows, House investigators have received "troubling evidence" suggesting coordinated media action between the FBI and DOJ continues today.
However, he cautioned that such activity may not be evidence of wrongdoing, but rather a failure "to advance the private march to justice."
What does 'media leak strategy' mean?
Aitan Goelman, the attorney representing Strzok, told the media his client was not referring to initiating leaks — but stopping them.
"The term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media. The President and his enablers are once again peddling unfounded conspiracy theories to mislead the American People," he said.