Rep. Mark Meadows has identified what he called a “systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials” at the nation’s top law enforcement agencies, he wrote in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday.
The allegations that higher-ups at the FBI and Justice Department stem from yet more unmasked text exchanges between two officials Meadows and other House Republicans have criticized for months as they try to root out political bias at the agencies: the FBI’s recently fired Peter Strzok and DOJ lawyer Lisa Page, his former alleged mistress.
On April 10 of last year, according to Meadows’ letter, Strzok texted Page from his government-issued phone: “I 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.”
Then, two days later, he sent Page another text telling her that two new articles were coming about about former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, whom Strzok referred to as her “namesake.”
“Well done, Page,” Strzok wrote to Lisa Page.
On April 11 of that year, between the two text messages from Strzok to Page, The Washington Post broke a story with the headline, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page.”
The story cited officials who “spoke about the court order on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.”
The exchanges between Strzok and Page “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,” Meadows wrote in his letter to Rosenstein.
Meadows questioned the “motives” of the investigators in the Trump-Russia probe.
Democrats said Tuesday that Meadows’ letter to Rosenstein was the latest in a series of stunts intended to “distract” from the“growing chaos” in the Trump administration.
Republicans are focused on undermining executive branch investigations into Trump instead of conducting their own oversight of the administration, Rep. Gerry Connolly, the vice ranking member of the Oversight Committee said in a statement.
“Where is the Republican zeal for oversight when it comes to President Trump’s rampant conflicts of interest, his obvious violation of the emoluments clause, the unprecedented security clearance problems that plague the West Wing, the use of personal emails by senior administration officials, and the Administration’s failed response to the disaster in Puerto Rico?” Connolly said.
“There are more than 50 outstanding subpoena requests offered by Democrats to investigate these pressing issues and Republicans have opposed each and every one of them.”
Meadows penned the letter as the members sitting on those two committees continue to receive a stream of documents of the communications between upper-level officials at the FBI and DOJ regarding the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and other Republicans on the committees, have asked President Donald Trump to declassify “all remaining documents being withheld” by the DOJ and FBI as they investigate bias at the agencies.
Those document requests include the full applications for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Republicans have accused the FBI of using an unverified dossier prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele as a key resource to obtain their warrant on Page. Democrats have said that’s hogwash — the FBI had its eyes on Page’s foreign contacts long before he was working for the Trump campaign, the dossier was just one element of a multi-component application, and Page was no longer working for the campaign by the time they submitted their initial surveillance application.
Strzok was the first FBI or DOJ official whose head rolled as a result of House Republicans’ probe into bias at the FBI.
At the heart of GOP lawmakers’ complaints about Strzok were a series of texts from Aug. 8, 2016, between Strzok and Page in which Strzok wrote to Page, “We’ll stop” a Trump presidency.
Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote.
“No. No he won’t,” Strzok responded. “We’ll stop it.”
At a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees in June, Strzok vehemently denied that his personal distaste for Trump ever affected his work, which included leading the FBI’s probes into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the Trump campaign’s potential ties with Russia.
“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: Not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok testified.
The DOJ’s inspector general concluded in a report released in May that department officials committed numerous indiscretions over the course of the Trump campaign investigation in 2016.
But IG Michael Horowitz “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected those specific investigative decisions,” he told the House Judiciary Committee on June 19.
Watch: Issa Asks Strzok to Read Anti-Trump Texts