The FBI “failed to preserve” five months worth of text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the two FBI employees who made pro-Clinton and anti-Trump comments while working on the Clinton email and the Russia collusion investigations.
The disclosure was made Friday in a letter sent by the Justice Department to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).
“The Department wants to bring to your attention that the FBI’s technical system for retaining text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices failed to preserve text messages for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page,” Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Justice Department, wrote to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of HSGAC.
He said that texts are missing for the period between Dec. 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.
Boyd attributed the failure to “misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities.”
“The result was that data that should have been automatically collected and retained for long-term storage and retrieval was not collected,” Boyd wrote.
Strzok and Page were significant players in the Clinton and Trump investigations. As deputy chief of counterintelligence, Strzok oversaw the Trump investigation when it was opened in July 2016. Weeks earlier, he had wrapped up his work as one of the top investigators on the Clinton email probe.
Both worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation until July 2017.
But Strzok was removed after the Justice Department’s inspector general discovered text messages he exchanged with Page, with whom he was having an affair, in which both expressed strong criticism of Trump.
In one text, Strzok called Trump and “idiot.” In another, he said “F Trump.”
In another more cryptic exchange, Strzok spoke of an “insurance policy” that the FBI sought to take out in case Trump defeated Clinton in the election.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok wrote to Page on Aug. 15, 2016.
“Andy” was a reference to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok added. Republicans have questioned what Strzok meant by “insurance policy.”
Page left the Mueller team prior to the discovery of the texts.
Johnson expressed concern over the missing text messages, which were sent during a key period of the Russia investigation. During that time frame is when the Steele dossier was published by BuzzFeed News, when Strzok participated in a Jan. 24 interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, and when James Comey was fired as FBI director.
The end date of the missing Strzok-Page texts is also significant. That’s because May 17 is the day when Mueller was appointed to take over the FBI’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
“The loss of records from this period is concerning,” Johnson wrote in a letter sent Saturday to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Along with its disclosure of the missing text messages, DOJ’s Boyd handed over 384 pages of additional text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page.