Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the reported FBI lovebirds, are the poster children for the next “Don’t Text and Investigate” public service ads airing soon at an FBI office near you.
Their extraordinary texting affair on their government phones has given the FBI a black eye, laying bare a raw political bias brought into the workplace that agents are supposed to check at the door when they strap on their guns and badges.
It is no longer in dispute that they held animus for Donald Trump, who was a subject of their Russia probe, or that they openly discussed using the powers of their office to “stop” Trumpfrom becoming president. The only question is whether any official acts they took in the Russia collusion probe were driven by those sentiments.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is endeavoring to answer that question.
For any American who wants an answer sooner, there are just five words, among the thousands of suggestive texts Page and Strzok exchanged, that you should read.
That passage was transmitted on May 19, 2017. “There’s no big there there,” Strzok texted.
The date of the text long has intrigued investigators: It is two days after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump and the Russia campaign.
Since the text was turned over to Congress, investigators wondered whether it referred to the evidence against the Trump campaign.
This month, they finally got the chance to ask. Strzok declined to say — but Page, during a closed-door interview with lawmakers, confirmed in the most pained and contorted way that the message in fact referred to the quality of the Russia case, according to multiple eyewitnesses.
The admission is deeply consequential. It means Rosenstein unleashed the most awesome powers of a special counsel to investigate an allegation that the key FBI officials, driving the investigation for 10 months beforehand, did not think was “there.”
By the time of the text and Mueller’s appointment, the FBI’s best counterintelligence agents had had plenty of time to dig. They knowingly used a dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign — which contained uncorroborated allegations — to persuade the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to issue a warrant to monitor Trump campaign adviser Carter Page (no relation to Lisa Page).
They sat on Carter Page’s phones and emails for nearly six months without getting evidence that would warrant prosecuting him. The evidence they had gathered was deemed so weak that their boss, then-FBI Director James Comey, was forced to admit to Congress after being fired by Trump that the core allegation remained substantially uncorroborated.
In other words, they had a big nothing burger. And, based on that empty-calorie dish, Rosenstein authorized the buffet menu of a special...