The Justice Department’s inspector general informed Congress on Thursday that he had recovered missing text messages from two FBI officials whose communications have become the increasing focus of Republican lawmakers raising questions about anti-Trump bias in the bureau.
In a letter to lawmakers who had sought the texts, DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz said his office used “forensic tools” to recover the messages from FBI devices. The FBI revealed to Congress earlier this week that five-months’ worth of messages between FBI attorney Lisa Page and senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok had been lost because of a technical “misconfiguration.” That issue affected “thousands” of phones within the FBI, officials indicated.
But Republicans jumped on the missing messages to suggest something more sinister was afoot. Horowitz indicated that he would provide the messages to the Justice Department and emphasized that he had “no objection” if the Justice Department chose to share them with Congress.
The missing messages spanned Dec. 14, 2016, through May 17, 2017, a period when the FBI’s investigation of Trump campaign contacts with Russia intensified. May 17 is also the day Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia inquiry, following President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Strzok and Page have emerged as central players in Republican lawmakers’ questions about the handling of the Trump investigation, as well as the FBI’s decision-making in the examination of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information.
Earlier batches of text messages indicated deep hostility toward Trump — and other political figures of both parties — by Strzok and Page. The messages don’t indicate any wrongdoing — and FBI officials have emphasized that employees are permitted to privately express political views — but GOP lawmakers have argued that they need to investigate further to determine whether Strzok or Page allowed political beliefs to influence their actions in the probe.