The text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that reference a supposed “secret society” at the FBI appear to have been made in jest, according to new reporting from ABC News, which obtained copies of the messages.
On Tuesday and Wednesday Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) made the cable news rounds to raise alarm about the missing texts and propagate his theory that there is a “secret society” operating out of the FBI. He claimed an informant had told him about “off-site meetings” that were held after the election.
Johnson later clarified that the “secret society” terminology was taken from the Strzok and Page text exchanges that, according to ABC News, lack context and were likely made as a joke.
“When Strzok and Page had described a secret society, that didn’t surprise me because I had corroborating information,” Johnson told ABC Wednesday.
The text message in question: “Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society,” Page texted Strzok when he was working for special counsel Robert Mueller and his probe into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
According to ABC, the “secret society” text message stands alone in a series of texts and lacks any type of context to tie it to the rest of the conversations.
Over the weekend, the FBI was expected to release a new round of text messages between Strzok and Page, but announced that the texts have gone missing due to a Samsung phone glitch.
The Justice Department is investigating 50,000 text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page during the 2016 presidential election. According to transcripts of the texts released by the Justice Department, the pair referred to Trump as an “idiot” and used language that indicated they supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid. The texts also show that Strzok believed there was “no big there there” regarding Russia investigation.
Trump and other Republicans are using the texts to hold a candle to their accusations of bias within the FBI, a phenomenon the President has been fueling since he fired former FBI Director James Comey last spring.