- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2020

A pair of anti-Trump ex-FBI officials said Tuesday they are open to settling their lawsuits against the Justice Department for releasing their private text messages as the department seeks to push a possible trial into late 2021 or possibly 2022.

Former lovebirds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page said in a court filing they are willing to explore the possibility of a settlement, but cautioned that such an outcome is unlikely. Neither has had discussions with the Justice Department about a potential settlement, according to the filing.

The two also said that unless there is a settlement, their claims cannot be resolved without a trial, citing “many material disputes in the case.”

Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page have accused the Justice Department of unlawfully releasing to the press private text messages between each other.

They say former Attorney General Jeff Sessions authorized the release as political retribution for their criticism of President Trump. The lawsuit also alleges that the Justice Department bucked its traditional disclosure process for releasing materials in the public interest.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in September ruled the cases, which were joined together for discovery purposes, could move forward.

Mr. Strzok has also alleged in his lawsuit that he was unlawfully fired because of the text messages.

Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department pushed to hold a trial in late 2021 or possibly 2022, depending on the gap between discovery and a trial.

Department attorneys asked the court to extend the discovery process until July 23, 2021, citing the impact of the deadly coronavirus crisis.

“Although the Discovery Units within the FBI’s Discovery Management Section are no longer closed, they continue to operate under staggered scheduling to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus and the staff within those units are largely unable to work remotely, given that the relevant systems reside on the FBI’s classified network,” the lawyers wrote.

Typically, a trial can happen within three to six months after discovery is complete.

Attorneys for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page rejected that timetable, asking for discovery to conclude on May 14, 2021. They say much of the evidence in the case as well as potential witnesses are already known.

“Defendants will not be starting from scratch in addressing their discovery obligations in these cases,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.

Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, who had an extramarital affair with each other, blasted Mr. Trump and his supporters ahead of the 2016 election, while they were investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In December 2017, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved releasing the text messages to select members of the news media.

Mr. Trump quickly seized on the messages, pointing to them as evidence top FBI officials were biased against him in the Russia collusion probe.

Mr. Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team after the texts went public, and he was later fired. He has claimed his firing was prompted by “unrelenting pressure” from the president.

Ms. Page was also briefly a member of Mr. Mueller’s team, but for undisclosed reasons. She later resigned from the FBI.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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