Weekly Update: Judicial Watch Sues for FBI Text Messages
JANUARY 26, 2018
A miracle! Your Judicial Watch files a federal lawsuit and the Justice Department finds the “missing” text messages! Of course, as we said all along, they were never missing in the first place.
On Wednesday we announced the filing of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for text messages and other records of FBI official Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00154)).
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, revealed in a letter dated January 20 that the FBI claimed it is unable to preserve text messages for a five-month period between December 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017, due to “misconfiguration issues” with FBI-issued phones used by Strzok and Page. The missing messages span dates between the presidential transition and the launch of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, where both Strzok and Page were employed.
So, lo and behold, right after we sued for the texts, the Justice Department said it has found the texts. According to Fox News, Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported that his office “succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices, including text messages between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page that were sent or received between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.”
We sued after Justice failed to respond to our December 4, 2017, FOIA request for:
- All records of communications, including but not limited to, emails, text messages and instant chats, between FBI official Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page;
- All travel requests, travel authorizations, travel vouchers and expense reports of Peter Strzok;
- All travel requests, travel authorizations, travel vouchers and expense reports of Lisa Page.
The text messages are of public interest because Strzok and Page were key investigators in the Clinton email and Trump Russia collusion investigations. Strzok was reportedly removed from the Mueller investigative team in August and reassigned to a human resources position after it was discovered that he and FBI lawyer Lisa 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.
Strzok reportedly oversaw the FBI’s interviews of former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn; changed former FBI Director James Comey’s language about Hillary Clinton’s actions regarding her illicit email server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless;” played a lead role in the FBI’s interview of Clinton; and is suspected of being responsible for using the unverified dossier to obtain a FISA warrant in order to spy on President Trump’s campaign.
The Strzok-Page text messages are potentially responsive to several pending Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits, but showing the agency’s contempt for transparency and the rule of law, the FBI has yet to produce any of the records, explain the missing records to the courts, or otherwise be forthcoming about these newly disclosed materials.
I didn’t believe for one minute that the Strzok-Page texts were really missing. For example, the IRS told us that Lois Lerner’s emails were “missing,” and we forced them to admit they existed and deliver them to us. The State Department hid the Clinton emails, but our FOIA lawsuits famously blew open that cover-up.
It is shameful that the FBI and DOJ have been playing shell games with these smoking gun text messages. We hope to get these messages through our lawsuit and we will be sure to let you know when we do!
The Justice Department is refusing to release the proposed budget of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Office.
Judicial Watch asked for a “copy of the budget prepared or submitted” by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But, on Friday, January 19, the Justice Department notified Judicial Watch that it refuses to turn over documents, stating: “seven pages were located that contain records responsive to your … request. We have determined that this material should be withheld in full because it is protected from disclosure under the FOIA.”
The Justice Department claims the Mueller budget information cannot be released because its release could interfere with “law enforcement proceedings” and the material is protected from disclosure by the “deliberative process privilege.”
We filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DOJ on October 5, 2017, after it failed to respond to a July 10, 2017, request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-02079)). Judicial Watch is seeking a copy of the budget submitted by Mueller or his staff; a copy of all guidance communications by which the Justice Management Division will review the Special Counsel’s Office’s “Statement of Expenditures;” and a copy of each document governing the Special Counsel’s Office appointed under the leadership of Mueller.
The Justice Department has thus far ignored Judicial Watch’s requests for documents about its management of the Mueller operation.
The Justice Department also sent Judicial Watch a copy of a previously published document showing expenditures by the Special Counsel’s Office from May 17, 2017, to September 30, 2017. The total was $3,213,695 – nearly a million dollars per month.
On July 7, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Special counsel Mueller submitted a proposed budget to the Justice Department, “but officials declined to make the document public and committed only to releasing reports of the team’s expenditures every six months.”
Judicial Watch is pursuing numerous additional FOIA lawsuits related to the surveillance, unmasking, and illegal leaking targeting President Trump and his associates during the FBI’s investigation of potential Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. For example, see here, here, and here.
Special Counsel Mueller’s operation is not above the law. The American people have a right to know how much taxpayer money is planned for his massive investigation. No one else in DC seems to be providing oversight of the Mueller operation, so once again it is up to the citizen’s group Judicial Watch to go to fight for accountability.
Until next week …