Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department Over ‘Missing’ Strzok-Page Text Messages Deleted by Mueller Special Counsel
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for text message records of former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page believed to be in the possession of the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and for other special counsel communications with the FBI relating to Strzok and Page (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-02693)).
The text messages in question would have been sent and received on Justice Department issued iPhones assigned to Strzok and Page during their respective assignments to the Special Counsel’s Office and should have been recovered, reviewed and preserved by the Special Counsel Office before the phones were sent back to the Justice Department Justice Management Division for reassignment.
Strzok was removed from the Special Counsel team and Page stepped down in the summer of 2017, after their anti-Trump/pro-Clinton texts written during their tenure at the FBI were uncovered. Once the Office of the Special Counsel became aware of the incendiary text messages and at the time Strzok and Page were notified of their termination from the special counsel team, the duo’s special-counsel phones normally would have been confiscated and the content on the phones would have been recovered, reviewed and preserved. Judicial Watch seeks those records. Strzok and Page are no longer with the FBI.
The lawsuit was filed after the Justice Department and FBI failed to respond to December 17, 2018, FOIA requests seeking access to the following records:
- All records related to the hardware, software and contents of mobile phones issued to FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their use while they served on the investigative team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
- All records of communication (whether on government or non-.gov email accounts and whether using real names or aliases), with FBI officials relating to the hardware, software and contents of mobile phones issued to FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their use while they served on the investigative team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The time frame for the requested records is May 1, 2017, to December 17, 2018.
In December 2018, the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report regarding the recovery of “thousands of text messages.” The IG “initiated this investigation upon being notified of a gap in text message data collection for the period December 15, 2016, through May 17, 2017, from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mobile devices assigned to FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.”
The OIG asked the FBI Inspection Division to locate the FBI issued Samsung Galaxy S5 devices formerly assigned to the subject employees and to obtain from the same individuals their assigned FBI issued Samsung Galaxy S7 devices…. The result of these steps was the recovery of thousands of text messages within the period of the missing text messages, December 15, 2016 through May 17, 2017, as well as hundreds of other text messages outside the gap time period that had not been produced by the FBI due to technical problems with its text message collection tool.
Because of the content of many of the text messages between Strzok and Page, the IG also asked Mueller’s office for the DOJ-issued iPhones that had been assigned to Strzok and Page. The phone assigned to Strzok had been “reset to factory settings” and “reconfigured for the new user to whom the device was issues.” Page’s iPhone had been reset but had not been reassigned.
The IG also said that as the date of its report, the FBI wasn’t reliably collecting text messages of all its employees.
Strzok and Page were key investigators in the Clinton email and Russia collusion investigations. Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigative team in July 2017 and reassigned to a human resources position after it was discovered that he and Page – who worked for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and with whom Strzok was carrying on an extramarital affair – exchanged pro-Clinton and anti-Trump text messages.
“The Justice Department IG was unable to recover any text messages from Strzok’s and Page’s phones because the compromised Mueller operation wiped them,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch is skeptical that these texts are really gone, and the DOJ’s stonewalling suggests we are right to be suspicious.”
In February 2019, DOJ records showed that former FBI General Counsel James Baker discussed the investigation of Clinton-related emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop with Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall. Baker then forwarded the conversation to his FBI colleagues. The documents also further describe a previously reported quid pro quo from the Obama State Department offering the FBI more legal attaché positions if it would downgrade a redaction in an email found during the Clinton email investigation “from classified to something else.”
Also in February, Judicial Watch received DOJ records that include emails documenting an evident cover-up of a chart of potential violations of law by Clinton.
In June 2019, Judicial Watch revealed Strzok-Page emails that show then-FBI General Counsel James Baker instructing FBI officials to expedite the release of FBI investigative material to Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, in August 2016. Kendall and the FBI’s top lawyer discussed specifically quickly obtaining the “302” report of the FBI/DOJ interview of Clinton. The emails also show the FBI failed to document at least four interviews of witnesses in the Clinton email investigation.
Also in June, Judicial Watch uncovered Strzok Page emails showing FBI efforts to muddle former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Clinton emails, as well as FBI-media collusion.
In July 2019, Judge Walton held a hearing regarding the rate of production of Strzok-Page materials.