Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI executives coordinated a series of leaks to major U.S. media outlets in an effort to discredit President Donald Trump, according to new documents obtained by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows.
“Review of these new documents suggests a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information to the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration,” Meadows said in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that was made public Monday.
The new information raises additional serious questions about the 2016-17 investigation by the FBI of allegations that Trump campaign aides colluded with Russian interests during the 2016 election. That investigation led to the appointment in May 2017 of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Meadows’ letter was first reported by SaraCarter.com.
But Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, including Meadows, have all but described the DOJ/FBI investigation prior to the election as an illegal use of government intelligence resources against one party’s presidential candidate to the benefit of the other party’s candidate. After Trump won, the Republicans contend, the investigation became a tool to discredit Trump and thereby block his policy agenda.
Meadows pointed Rosenstein to an April 10, 2017, text message exchange between former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and his then-lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, that “should lead a reasonable person to question whether there was a sincere desire to investigate wrongdoing or to place derogatory information in the media to justify a continued probe.”
In the Strzok/Page text messages, Strzok tells Page on April 10, 2017, that he “had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go.”
“These new documents suggests a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information to the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration.”
Two days later, Strzok “congratulates Lisa Page on a job well done while referring to two derogatory articles about Carter Page,” Meadows told Rosenstein in the letter. “In the text, Strzok warns Page two articles are coming out, one which is ‘worse’ than the other about Lisa’s ‘namesake.’ Strzok added: ‘Well done, Page.'”
Carter Page (no relation to Lisa Page) was the subject of extended surveillance by the FBI, approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The FBI application for that approval was based almost entirely on the infamous “Steele dossier,” a collection of salacious and unproven accusations against Trump provided mostly to a former British spy, Christopher Steele, by his contacts in Russian intelligence.
The Steele dossier was paid for indirectly during the 2016 presidential race by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which she controlled at the time, as her party’s presidential nominee against Trump.
The FBI did not tell the FISA court judges, who approved the initial application for surveillance of Page and three subsequent renewals, of the dossier’s funding, leaving the judges to believe, inaccurately, that the application and renewals were based on previously verified information.
Rosenstein signed one of the renewal requests.
Meadows in his letter also told Rosenstein that the new information indicates that during the same time period Strzok and Page were discussing media leaks, other unnamed “FBI and DOJ officials were having conversations with reporters — The Washington Post broke a story on the Carter Page FISA application on April 11, 2017, setting off a flurry of articles suggesting connections between President Trump and Russia.”
“Evidence suggests senior officials at the FBI and DOJ communicated with other news outlets beyond The Washington Post.”
In addition, Meadows told Rosenstein, “other documents indicate DOJ officials, specifically Andrew Weissmann (a DOJ official presently on the special counsel’s team), participated in unauthorized conversations with the media during this same time period. Evidence suggests senior officials at the FBI and DOJ communicated with other news outlets beyond The Washington Post.”
Meadows told Rosenstein the new materials require that the House of Representatives be provided by DOJ with additional communications between three government officials — Stu Evans, Mike Kortan and Joe Pientka — during the period June 2016 to June 2017, and Strzok, Page, former Deputy Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and Weissmann.