SMS messages between former FBI officials catch reactions to stories about Russia research

SMS messages between former FBI officials catch reactions to stories about Russia research

Legislators received five months recovered messages between former FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page in early August, but the Republican representative of North Carolina Mark Meadows released specific fragments this week, in a letter to the Ministry of Justice indicate that they "suggest a coordinated effort by the FBI and DOJ to release information that could be detrimental to the administration of President Donald Trump."

While that research is under way and more messages can come up, CNN & # 39; s review of the latest texts, in the context of other messages and simultaneous events, show that Strzok and Page were keenly aware of the news articles about the FBI's investigation and its foothills, regularly informing each other when articles are being published.

Some texts raise questions about their degree of involvement in designing stories about ongoing investigations and whether they have been approved, but frequent coordination and communication with the former head of the press service of the FBI, Michael Kortan, is a consistent theme throughout their interactions . And sometimes they were consulted by the press service as subject matter experts to allow accurate reporting – to source familiar with their interactions – a regular occurrence that journalists check facts before they are published.

"It will turn your head to realize how many stories we played a personal role," wrote Page Strzok on December 19, 2016. "Sheesh, this has been a good year," she added and sent them a link to The New. Most read stories from York Times of 2016.

The reference to playing a "role" in the stories, while being open to interpretation, did not mean contributions to the underlying reporting, but their professional roles meant that they were familiar with certain information that only a small group of people at that time knew, according to a source that is familiar with the exchange.

In another text, the two CNN & # 39; s January 2017 reports suggest that Trump has been informed about the file compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

"Sitting with Bill watching CNN, a little more", text on the Strzok page on January 10, 2017. "Hey, let me know when you can talk, we'll discuss whether, as this is out, we'll use it as a pretext for interviewing a number of people. "

It is not clear what is meant by "pretext," but in counter-espionage investigations it is common to approach someone for questioning without revealing the true reason for the interview, which could be highly classified. Something of interest publicly reported in the media could serve as an effective way for an FBI agent to interrogate someone while protecting sensitive sources and methods, explained Josh Campbell, an CNN analyst and former special FBI regulator.

However, a clear explanation of their intention is rarely offered explicitly through text, and as a result these cryptic rules result in a Rorschach-like test of their meaning in a week in which the credibility of Page and Strzok has been re-submitted to the test.

The previous sets of texts show Strzok and Page 3 ridicule politicians on both sides of the aisle, but their unwavering contempt for Trump has repeatedly been cited as evidence by the president and his allies that Robert Mueller's special advice has been irreparably compromised from the outset because Strzok and Page both worked briefly in his team.

As the former number 2 official in the FBI's counter-intelligence division, Strzok helped to investigate the handling of classified information by former Secretary of States Hillary Clinton and was later involved in opening the investigation into links between Trump campaign advisers and suspected Russian agents.

He briefly served in the Mueller team last summer, but was removed shortly after the office of the Justice Department inspector stumbled on the texts that were exchanged on his work-issued phone with Page. He was fired at the FBI in August. Page also spent a short period in the Mueller team before returning to the FBI, and resigned from the office in May.

Representatives of Page and Strzok refused to comment on this story.

Not & # 39; freelancing & # 39;

In addition to regularly following the reports of news broadcasts on their phones, the two often also suffer from what they regarded as inaccuracies in the reporting or grip on the heads.

On January 19, 2017, page SMSte Strzok, "I'm really angry about the Times article, and this should just stop." He agreed and said the following day: "Yes, and it is not even news, no substance, and largely unequal." The press will undermine its credibility. "

A CNN review of New York Times articles published that day shows a title entitled "Interrupted Russian communications, part of the investigation into Trump Associates," but it is unclear whether their texts related to that article and no texts suggested that they provided information for it.
On 14 February 2017, after the New York Times published its report on the FBI interview with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Page and Strzok appeared to discuss the involvement of Kortan in the following exchange:

Strzok: Bottom line Mike walked through the thinking / timeline / story of the boss. Bunch of extra details (edited) etc.

Page: K. Did you mention that I was present shortly?

Strzok: Not for Mike, he had left. The boys left seemed to think no, said Mike would talk to you.

Another message refers to collaboration and & # 39; access & # 39 ;, but they do not call the outlet.

"We will be very clear that we have worked together and given a lot of access to an article that I think will be very negative." Very bad for negative press. Much worse to choose to give a lot and permanent access for negative press, "Strzok sms" on April 27, 2017. She replied: "So let's agree with Mike before and talk about it (corrected) . "

Although such exchanges could win a closer examination, given the depth of their role in Russian research, a source familiar with their interactions stressed that Page and Strzok were not "freelancing" with the media and instead with the media. press service of the FBI.

In addition, other messages show their caution and unease when they try to find the source of "leakage" for the news media and struggle to guard their own information from falling into the wrong hands of those "with partisan axes to grind".

"Think that our sisters are starting to leak like crazy," Strzok said on December 15, 2016, without further elaboration. "Scorned and worried and political, they kick in to oversteer."

Strzok does not specify who their "sisters" were, but Campbell explained that agents often referred to colleagues at the CIA and NSA as "sisters."