Already raising questions about possible investigatory bias inside the FBI, Republicans in Congress are now demanding more answers about how five months of text messages between two senior FBI employees on the Hillary Clinton email probe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, were not archived and properly retained by the bureau.
“The loss of records from this period is concerning because it is apparent from other records that Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page communicated frequently about the investigation,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in a letter to the FBI Director.
The FBI says the texts weren’t kept because of a misconfiguration of software upgrades on cell phones issued to employees.
That explanation fell flat on Capitol Hill.
“This is a “my dog ate my homework” level excuse,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). “Americans deserve to know if there was rampant anti-Trump bias at the FBI, and certainly if there was an effort to cover it up.”
The review of how the FBI handled the Clinton email case has gone hand in hand with assertions by Republicans that officials inside the FBI were biased in favor of Clinton, and biased against President Donald Trump, as GOP lawmakers contend that may have bled into the subsequent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a joint statement, three House GOP lawmakers said the details of newly revealed texts were “extremely troubling,” and showed bias involved in the investigation.
“The omission of text messages between December 2016 and May 2017, a critical gap encompassing the FBI’s Russia investigation, is equally concerning, ” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
The texts between Strzok and Page, would have covered a period during the Trump transition, running up to the time that Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation began.
Few specifics were released from the latest batch of FBI texts to detail what exactly the Republicans had found, as GOP lawmakers instead focused on the overall situation – for example, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said the texts he saw “revealed manifest bias among top FBI officials.”
The discovery of the missing texts swiftly brought back memories for Republicans of how thousands of emails went missing of Lois Lerner, a top Internal Revenue Service officials involved in a controversy about bias against more conservative groups seeking non-profit status.
Strzok and Page are important figures for two reasons – they were both part of the Clinton email investigation, and then had roles in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The two were found to be having an affair; Strzok, a senior counterintelligence official, was reassigned from the Mueller probe after the discovery of the text messages between them.