Judicial Watch: Emails Show Frantic Exchange Between Top FBI Officials Around Time of Trump’s Inauguration
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it received 136 pages of emails between former FBI official Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page. They include heavily redacted emails showing Strzok, Page and top bureau officials in the days prior to and following President Donald Trump’s inauguration discussing a White House counterintelligence briefing that could “play into” the FBI’s “investigative strategy.”
On January 19, 2017, the night before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a series of emails were exchanged between top officials in the FBI’s General Counsel’s office, Counterintelligence Division and Washington Field Office, and included then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former Assistant Director for the Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap.
The thread was initiated at 3:29 p.m. on January 19 by an assistant general counsel in the FBI’s National Security Law Branch in an email to Strzok with an almost entirely redacted email in which the person said, “I’ll give Trisha/Baker a heads up too.” Strzok’s reply is redacted, as is the response to Strzok. Strzok then says at 7:04 p.m., “I briefed Bill this afternoon and he was trying without success to reach the DD [McCabe]. I will forward below to him as his [sic] changes the timeline. What’s your recommendation?” The Counterintelligence Division official’s reply to Strzok is mostly redacted, except for “Approved by tomorrow afternoon is the request. [Redacted] – please advise if I am missing something.” An unidentified official replies, “[Redacted], Bill is aware and willing to jump in when we need him.” At 8 p.m., Strzok responds (copying officials in the Counterintelligence Division, Washington Field Office and General Counsel’s office), “Just talked with Bill. [Redacted]. Please relay above to WFO and [redacted] tonight, and keep me updated with plan for meet and results of same. Good luck.” Strzok then forwards the whole email exchange to Lisa Page, saying, “Bill spoke with Andy. [Redacted.] Here we go again …”
On January 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, Strzok forwarded to Lisa Page and a redacted person an email he’d sent that day to Priestap, asking them to “not forward/share.” In the email to Priestap, Strzok said, “I heard from [redacted] about the WH CI briefing routed from [redacted]. I am angry that Jen did not at least cc: me, as my branch has pending investigative matters there, this brief may play into our investigative strategy, and I would like the ability to have visibility and provide thoughts/counsel to you in advance of the briefing. This is one of the reasons why I raised the issue of lanes/responsibilities that I did when you asked her to handle WH detailee interaction.”
Also, on January 21, 2017, Strzok wrote largely the same message he’d sent to Priestap directly to his counterintelligence colleague Jennifer Boone.
The records were produced to Judicial Watch in a January 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the DOJ failed to respond to a December 2017 request for all communications between Strzok and Page (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00154)).
The FBI has only processed emails at a rate of 500 pages per month and has yet to process text messages. At this rate, the production of these communications, which still number around 8,000 pages, would not be completed until at least late 2021.
In other emails, Strzok comments on reporting on the anti-Trump dossierauthored by Hillary Clinton’s paid operative Christopher Steele.
In a January 2017 email, Strzok takes issue with a UK Independent report which claimed Steele had suspected there was a “cabal” within the FBI which put the Clinton email investigation above the Trump-Russia probe. Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent, was at the heart of both the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations.
In April and June of 2017, the FBI would use the dossier as key evidence in obtaining FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page. In a declassified summary of a Department of Justice assessment of the warrants that was released by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in January of this year, it was determined that those two applications to secretly monitor Page lacked probable cause.
The newly released records include a January 11, 2017, email from Strzok to Lisa Page, Priestap, and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Jon Moffa, a New York Times report which refers to the dossier as containing “unsubstantiated accounts” and “unproven claims.” In the email, Strzok comments on the article, calling it “Pretty good reporting.”
On January 14, 2017, FBI Assistant Director for Public Affairs Michael Kortan forwards to Strzok, Page and Priestap a link to a UK Independent article entitled “Former MI6 Agent Christopher Steele’s Frustration as FBI Sat On Donald Trump Russia File for Months”.
The article, citing security sources, notes that “Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up: that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Clinton’s emails.”
Strzok responds: “Thanks Mike. Of course not accurate [the cover-up/cabal nonsense]. Is that question gaining traction anywhere else?”
The records also include a February 10, 2017, email from Strzok to Page mentioning then-national security adviser Michael Flynn (five days before Flynn resigned) and includes a photo of Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Strzok also makes a joke about how McCabe had fat shamed Kislyak.
On February 8, 2017, Strzok, under the subject “RE: EO on Economic Espionage,” emailed Lisa Page, saying, “Please let [redacted] know I talked to [redacted]. Tonight, he approached Flynn’s office and got no information.” Strzok was responding to a copy of an email Page had sent him. The email, from a redacted FBI official to Deputy Director McCabe read: “OPS has not received a draft EO on economic espionage. Instead, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce advised OPS that they received a draft, but they did not send us the draft. I’ll follow up with our detailees about this EO.” Flynn resigned on February 13, 2017.
On January 26, 2017, Nancy McNamara of the FBI’s Inspection Division emailed Strzok and Priestap with the subject line “Leak,” saying, “Tried calling you but the phones are forwarded to SIOC. I got the tel call report, however [redacted]. Feel free to give me a call if I have it wrong.” Strzok forwarded the McNamara email to Lisa Page and an unidentified person in the General Counsel’s office, saying, “Need to talk to you about how to respond to this.”
On January 11, 2017, Yahoo News reporter Michael Isikoff emailed Kortan, saying he’d learned that Steele had worked for the Bureau’s Eurasian organized crime section and had turned over the dossier on Trump-Russian “collusion” to the bureau in Rome. Kortan forwards Isikoff’s email to aide Richard Quinn, who forwards to Strzok “just for visibility”. Strzok forwards to his boss, Priestap and Moffa, saying, “FYI, [redacted], you or I should probably inform [redacted]. How’s your relationship with him? Bill unless you object, I’ll let Parmaan [presumably senior FBI official Bryan Paarmann] know.” Strzok forwards the whole exchange onto Lisa Page.
On January 18, 2017, reporter Peter Elkind of ProPublica reached out to Kortan, asking to interview Strzok, Michael Steinbach, Jim Baker, Priestap, former FBI Director James Comey and DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg for a story Elkind was working on. Kortan replied, “Okay, I will start organizing things.” Further along in the thread, an FBI Press Office official reached out to an FBI colleague for assistance with the interviews, saying Steinbach had agreed to a “background discussion” with Elkind, who was “writing the ‘definitive’ account of what happened during the Clinton investigation, specifically, Comey’s handling of the investigation, seeking to reconstruct and explain in much greater detail what he did and why he did it.” In May 2017, Elkind wrote an article titled “The Problems With the FBI’s Email Investigation Went Well Beyond Comey,” which in light of these documents, strongly suggests many FBI officials leaked to the publication.
Strzok ended up being scheduled to meet with Elkind at 9:30 a.m. on January 31, 2017, before an Elkind interview of Comey’s chief of staff Jim Rybicki. Elkind’s reporting on the Clinton email investigation was discussed at length in previous emails obtained by Judicial Watch.
“These documents suggest that President Trump was targeted by the Comey FBI as soon as he stepped foot in the Oval Office,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And now we see how the Comey FBI was desperate to spin, through high-level leaks, its mishandling of the Clinton email investigation. And, in a continuing outrage, it should be noted that Wray’s FBI and Barr’s DOJ continue slow walk the release of thousands of Page-Strzok emails – which means the remaining 8,000 pages of records won’t be reviewed and released until 2021-2022!”
In February 2020, Judicial Watch uncovered an August 2016 email in which Strzok says that Clinton, in her interview with the FBI about her email controversy, apologized for “the work and effort” it caused the bureau and she said she chose to use it “out of convenience” and that “it proved to be anything but.” Strzok said Clinton’s apology and the “convenience” discussion were “not in” the FBI 302 report that summarized the interview.
Also in February, Judicial Watch made public Strzok-Page emails showing their direct involvement in the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the bureau’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The records also show additional “confirmed classified emails” were found on Clinton’s unsecure non-state.gov email server “beyond the number presented” in then-FBI Director James Comey’s statements; Strzok and Page questioning the access the DOJ was granting Clinton’s lawyers; and Page revealing that the DOJ was making edits to FBI 302 reports related to the Clinton Midyear Exam investigation. The emails detail a discussion about “squashing” an issue related to the Seth Rich controversy.
In January 2020, Judicial Watch uncovered Strzok-Page emails that detail special accommodations given to the lawyers of Clinton and her aides during the FBI investigation of the Clinton email controversy.
In November 2019, Judicial Watch revealed Strzok-Page emails that show the attorney representing three of Clinton’s aides were given meetings with senior FBI officials.
Also in November, Judicial Watch uncovered emails revealing that after Clinton’s statement denying the transmission of classified information over her unsecure email system, Strzok sent an email to FBI officials citing “three [Clinton email] chains” containing (C) [classified] portion marks in front of paragraphs.”
In a related case, in May 2020, Judicial Watch received the “electronic communication” (EC) that officially launched the counterintelligence investigation, termed “Crossfire Hurricane,” of President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The document was written by former FBI official Peter Strzok.