Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are asking the Justice Department to review why it released copies of anti-Trump texts before the department’s Inspector General had completed its probe into the FBI officials who exchanged the messages.
On Tuesday night, the DOJ released the text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page during the 2016 presidential election. The messages refer to President Trump as an “idiot” and indicate the two supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid. The department’s Inspector General is currently probing the two officials’ potential bias and the work they did for the Russia investigation, but that probe isn’t expected to wrap up until April.
Calling the release of the texts to the media an “unusual move,” the lawmakers asked the DOJ’s public affairs official to tell them who reviewed the content of the text messages and who made the final decision to share the texts with the media at the same time they were being sent to Congress. The Democrats, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), also asked for a list of the reporters and news outlets that were invited to the Tuesday night briefing. They asked for a response by Dec. 19, according to the letter, obtained by Politico.
A DOJ official told Politico Thursday that the texts were released after members of Congress requested the documents, but said there were some members of the media who had received the messages before they were officially released. That move was not authorized, public affairs director Isgur Flores told Politico.
Republicans are pointing to the text messages as evidence that there was bias in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. Strzok was the head agent on the Clinton investigation.
Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said this week that he would investigate the matter and one Trump attorney has called for a separate probe into bias on Mueller’s team.
Speaking to reporters before heading to Virginia to attend the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony, Trump said it was “a shame what happened with the FBI” and said he was going to “rebuild” the agency, “bigger and better.”
“It’s very sad when you look at the documents and how they have done that is really, really disgraceful and you have a lot of angry people that are seeing it,” he said. “It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that. I am going today on behalf of the FBI, their new building, and when everybody— not me, everybody, the level of anger and what they have been witnessing with respect to the FBI, it’s certainly very sad.”