The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee sent a letter late Wednesday to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein requesting he turn over all communications from former FBI director James B. Comey Jr., former FBI general counsel James A. Baker, Deputy FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe, as well as 13 other FBI agents and Justice Department officials.
“On Jan. 19, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) produced to the committee 384 pages of text messages exchanged between FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok,” wrote Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (R.-Wis.), whose committee has oversight over the operations of all parts of the government in addition to homeland security. “I write to request additional information about FBI records connected to this investigation.”
Rosenstein is in charge of all matters regarding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 political cycle because Attorney General Jeff B. Sessions recused himself from this situation in accordance with Justice Department rules.
“Please provide an unclassified response to the greatest extent possible,” he wrote. “If a full response requires the production of classified information, please provide this material under separate cover via the Office of Senate Security.”
— James Comey (@Comey) October 23, 2017
The senator’s letter cast a wide net when he asked for all texts, emails, memos, and voicemails relating to the FBI’s investigation of former secretary of state Hillary R. Clinton, and candidates for the 2016 presidential election for the individuals named.
The Wisconsin Republican also asked specifically for the emails between the former first lady and President Barack Obama exchanged while Clinton was in the “territory of a sophisticated adversary” that Comey referred to in a draft of what would become his July 5 announcement that he would discourage federal prosecutors from going after Clinton for her handling of sensitive electronic correspondence on her private server while leading the State Department.
Notes from the FBI’s July 2, 2016 interview with Clinton suggest the country was Russia.
The other individuals Johnson is asking about are:
- Peter P. Strzok II, the former chief of the FBI’s counterespionage section;
- Lisa Page, an FBI attorney romantically-linked to Strzok;
- Brian Brooks, the FBI’s assistant director of the Operational Technology Division;
- Michael P. Kortan, the assistant director of FBI public affairs;
- Randall C. Coleman, executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch;
- George Z. Toscas, deputy assistant attorney general for national security;
- E. William “Bill” Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division and husband of Sabrina Menshel, the managing director of the private investigations firm Nardello & Company and Democratic contributor;
- Trisha Anderson, deputy general counsel at the Justice Department, former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and wife of Obama administration national security lawyer Charles L. Newman;
- Jonathan C. Moffa, the FBI agent who helped draft Comey’s July 5, 2016 exoneration of Clinton’s handling of sensitive electronic correspondence and the man who received information from a Jan. 27, 2016 walk-in-informant from the State Department, who tried to alert the FBI about Clinton’s private email server;
- David L. Bowdich, the associate deputy director of the FBI and the presumed successor to McCabe as FBI deputy director;
- James Turgal, the FBI’s former executive assistant director for the Information and Technology Branch;
- John Giacalone, the FBI’s former assistant director of counterterrorism division and the FBI agent-in-charge of Clinton email investigation, who resigned from the probe in February 2016; and
- Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff.
In text messages produced to the committee, Page and Strzok make references to communicating with other FBI employees via text message, phone call, email, and voice mail and additional text messages created the impression FBI officials used non-official email accounts and messaging programs to communicate about official business.
The chairman wrote to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray Jan. 20 to request an update regarding missing text messages between Page and Strzok, in addition to questions about how the FBI handles or monitors its workers who use private accounts for official business.
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) January 25, 2018
Johnson wrote that he was very interested in an August 2016 series texts exchanged between Page and Strzok where the two paramours refer to record-retention issues with the Samsung phones issued by the FBI for official business and how FBI employees preferred their private iPhones:
Ms. Page: Have a meeting with turgal about getting iphone in a day or so
Mr. Strzok: Oh hot damn. I’m happy to pilot that . . . We get around our security/monitoring issues?
Ms. Page: No, he’s proposing that we just stop following them. Apparently the requirement to capture texts came from omb, but we’re the only org (I’m told) who is following that rule. His point is, if no one else is doing it why should we.
Ms. Page: Helps that Dd had a terrible time with his phone [redacted] which made him concerned for our folks all over the place.
Ms. Page: These phones suck as much as they do because of the program we use to capture texts, full stop.
Mr. Strzok: No doubt.
Mr. Strzok: I’m not convinced short of OPR, that text capture capability really deters anything.
Mr. Strzok: If I want to copy/take classified, I’m sure as hell not going to do it on this phone.
Ms. Page: I thought it was more from a discovery perspective.
Mr. Strzok: Probably. So just make a rule no texts of a discoverable nature. Like you said, what are CBP, DEA, others doing?
Ms. Page: I’m told – thought I have seen – that there is an IG report that says everyone is failing. But one has changed anything, so why not just join in the failure.
Johnson also cited this April 2016 exchange between Page and Strzok, where they refer to communicating with other FBI employees via text message, phone call, email and voicemail and private emails and private messaging services:
Mr. Strzok: [Redacted] I find I’m increasingly profoundly bothered by JBs [sic] call and the lack of ANY heads up. Deeply. It was wrong given what I had already been asked to do. Gonna sleep on it and see where I am in the morning.
Mr. Strzok: Because you know where I was on Thursday or Friday night – when I was complaining about everyone expecting me to deliver the hard message while they vacillated in discussing with their counterparts. About how my sense of justness and character was at odds with waiting until Sat to say something. And rightfully, you point out stop being so prima donna-ish and just do it. And I do. And then I find out an hour later that in addition to what I was asked to do, JB went to counsel and had the discussion he did. And I’m the one facing the music. From some who I have known for a long time. Nobody else pays the price. Nobody else will have the same straight hard discussion. Yet, I’m the only one who violated his sense of integrity to swallow hard and deliver the message.
Mr. Strzok: I’m not sure if I want to be part of this
Ms. Page: You are part of this and that’s not going to change. But I think you have every right to be angry and frustrated about bring left out of the loop on your investigation, especially when you’re going to be left holding the bag. And I think you’re entitled to say something to Baker about that, though on this one I would probably discuss with Bill first.
Ms. Page: I’m sorry [redacted]. Big big case, big big problems. But God knows you’re still the right guy to do it.
Mr. Strzok: Gmailed you two drafts of what I’m thinking of sending Bill, would appreciate your thoughts. Second (more recent) is updated so you can skip the first.
Johnson told Rosenstein that he wanted no later than St. Valentine’s Day.
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