FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page worked for the Robert Mueller special investigation into allegations of collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government. They also worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a number of years, and in fact still do work for the agency.
However, they were removed from the investigation when texts were discovered between the two that showed they were not only having an affair, but were also openly biased against President Trump. During the investigation into their biases, it was discovered that there were months’ worth of text pages missing. Now, months later, the missing pages have been recovered, and their contents analyzed. More than 300 texts are in the hands of congress, and they can be read at this link.
These pages went missing under strange circumstances. Texts sent on government phones, which are considered government communications, are meant to be preserved, and are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and other similar demands for information.
Government communications are important for a number of legal reasons, and they are also important to citizens of the United States so they can hold their government, and its employees, accountable for the things they do (or fail to do), such as scheming against a sitting American President.
For the FBI to be unable to retrieve such information is, thus, fairly disturbing. Whether the texts are boring and innocuous work texts, flirty texts between two government employees having an affair, or sinister scheming texts, they need to be recorded and preserved properly.
So, what’s in this 49 pages of texts between Strzok and Page?
It’s hard to tell what most of the texts are about, or who they’re about. The people that the communications are from or to are heavily redacted. In fact, the only names that show up regularly are the names of the two FBI agents in question; every other name appears to be completely redacted in the ‘outgoing’ and ‘incoming’ boxes.
Furthermore, there are a number of redacted portions to the texts themselves, which are presumably names or other ‘identifying information.’ While this information may be ‘protected’ for one reason or another, not being able to access it robs many of the texts of contextual clues.
The two agents also use a lot of jargon and shorthand, as well as referring to people by their first names, such as a ‘Bill’ who is repeatedly mentioned without any other identifying characteristics.
However, there are a few things that an attentive reader can glean from these texts.
Firstly, some of them are about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and showcase the fear and panic the two felt when he was fired.
One of Strzok’s first texts on that day was a message about the importance of opening some ‘case’ that they had been working on while Andrew McCabe, then Deputy Director of the FBI, was still the acting Director of the FBI.
Perhaps this suggests that, whatever the ‘case’ they discussed was, it wouldn’t likely be allowed to go forward under someone who wasn’t willing to, say, lie to internal investigators.
The reply from Page was to say that they needed to “lock in” someone, in a “formal chargeable way.”
Later that day, he invited her to lunch with him and a person whose name was redacted.
Texts between the pair over the next few days show them rallying behind the removed director, commenting with disdain and anger over comments from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said that Director Comey, who they referred to as ‘D,’ had “lost the confidence” of the average FBI agent.
Days later, the two had a discussion about a “sense of loss” they were feeling about losing their Director, and how they thought that he could have made the FBI great (perhaps even great again).
That could be a reference to Aaron Zebley or Aaron Zelinsky. Most likely, it was a reference to Zebley, who was once a partner at the law firm WilmerHale and was Mueller’s chief of staff when he was the director of the Bureau.
Page was removed from the special investigation when her 45-day detail ended, and her assignment was not renewed. Her bias did not come to light while she was working on the case.
Strzok was removed from the special investigation in August, after evidence of his political bias was clearly presented to Robert Mueller.
While it does not seem that the messages are anything scandalous in nature, the fact that they were ‘missing’ is extremely worrisome. One would hope that there are not many other FBI messages ‘missing’ elsewhere.
With less redaction, it would be easier to decrypt these texts, however, and they could be a bit more important than they appear to be with proper context.
Federal employees are not immune to political bias, but when they show such bias in their work and their work discussions, they certainly should not be performing duties that allow them the chance to abuse their position to serve their biases. Their removal remains the right decision, and the fact that they were ever involved in an investigation involving the President is very questionable indeed.
Hopefully, Congress will be able to decipher these messages, and deliver the proper criminal referrals they deserve.