There were many, many disturbing questions raised by the 500-page inspector general’s report released to the public last week, but perhaps one of the most troubling surrounds the damning text message from FBI Agent Peter Strzok to his lover, FBI attorney Lisa Page. In the exchange, one of many the two lovebirds wrote to each other than demonstrated their bias against Republican candidate Donald Trump, Strzok responds to Page’s question: “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right?”
Strzok, then the lead investigator on the Trump/Russia collusion case, responds: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
Since several thousand of the pair’s text messages have been handed to Congress over the past year, it is only natural that we ask a question of our own: How come this one – the most disturbing of the lot – was withheld?
This is a particularly important question to answer because the excuse “oh, we didn’t recover that one” isn’t going to work in this case. That’s because Congress DID get Page’s initial text – the one about Trump becoming president – months ago. Lawmakers did not, however, receive Strzok’s response. One would have to imagine that if FBI forensics were able to turn up a specific query, they would also be able to come up with the response. The only possible excuse is that Strzok and/or Page took exceptional care to destroy, delete, and hide the response message at the time. Which, if true, would indicate mens rea – a “guilty mind.”
“Why wasn’t that given to Congress?” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes asked when the report became public. “Why did I find out about that today at noon?”
Lawmakers asked Horowitz about the text on Capitol Hill this week; he said he was nearly at the end of his investigation when the Department of Justice finally turned it over to him.
“It turned out that the FBI wasn’t aware that that database on there, which was supposed to be an operating function, was actually collecting data,” Horowitz said of the last text batch, which didn’t come out until late in his investigation.
“Did you not see it, or was it hidden from you?” Rep. Jim Jordan asked. “Because we have the text message right before it, and the one that happened right after it, but somehow that one — the most explosive one — was missing from the pages that we got months ago.”
Horowitz tried to talk in circles around that answer, but he ultimately admitted the text had been withheld intentionally.
“Who made the decision?” Jordan asked.
“We sent it to the Office of Deputy Attorney General,” Horowitz said.
“So, Mr. Rosenstein,” Jordan said in a tone that suggested he might have known as much. “Rosenstein made a decision that instead of us seeing the most explosive text message between these two key agents that were on the Clinton team, the Russia team, and on the Special Counsel team, he made a decision to wait a month for us to see that text message.”
We’re not 100% positive this is exactly the right answer, but if it is, that should represent the final nail in Rosenstein’s coffin. Horowitz, Wray, Rosenstein, and the rest of them obfuscate and use the most impenetrable language and timelines they can to obscure the truth, though, so we can’t be certain that Rosenstein hid this message the way Jordan concludes.
It’s definitely worth further inquiry, however, because this is a major development that demands answers.