- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman is asking the Justice Department to provide information that could clarify a senior FBI official’s cryptic text messages, which have raised concerns that bias against President Trump seeped into recent investigations.

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to know when and how the department became aware of the politically-charged messages exchanged between senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and has also asked for copies of communications between the officials and the bureau’s Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who appears to be referenced in one of the messages.

“Some of these texts appear to go beyond merely expressing a private political opinion, and appear to cross the line into taking some official action to create an ‘insurance policy’ against a Trump presidency,” wrote Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, in a letter sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Both Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any coordination with members of the Trump campaign.

Mr. Strzok was removed from the Mueller team this summer after the messages were discovered as part of the Justice Department’s inspector general investigation into the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Ms. Page was only temporarily detailed to the team and was no longer working on the case when the text messages were found.

But the tone of many of messages, a batch of which were turned over to five congressional committees late Tuesday and subsequently made public, raised concern about whether anti-Trump bias had affected the Mueller probe and also the FBI’s prior investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.

Mr. Strzok was a senior official working on the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email server in 2016. The probe cleared her of any criminal wrongdoing.

Mr. Grassley raised concern about two particular text messages that were among the 375 messages released Tuesday.

In one August 2016 text message, Mr. Strzok appeared to reference a meeting involving FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” he wrote.

In another message since on April 2, 2016, as the Clinton email matter was still under investigation, Ms. Page made a reference to another phone that worried Mr. Grassley that investigators were not getting all the messages exchanged between the pair.

“So look, you say we text on that phone when we talk about hillary because it can’t be traced, you were just venting bc you feel bad that you’re gone so much but it can’t be helped right now,” Ms. Page wrote.

Mr. Grassley noted that the text message was sent in the days before Mr. Strzok interviewed Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills as part of the email probe.

“Thus, the mention of ‘hillary’ may refer to Secretary Clinton and therefore could indicate that Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page engaged in other communications about an ongoing investigation on a different phone in an effort to prevent it from being traced,” Mr. Grassley wrote.

He asked the DOJ to disclose what steps it has taken to identify whether another phone was used to communicate about the case and to review any other communications.

“Any improper political influence or motives in the course of any FBI investigation must be brought to light and fully addressed,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement. “Former Director Comey’s claims that the FBI “doesn’t give a rip about politics” certainly are not consistent with the evidence of discussions occurring in the Deputy Director’s office around August 15, 2016.”

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