When the Senate Homeland Security Committee released nearly 400 texts messages between two FBI officials at the center of a political firestorm earlier this week, the committee’s Republican chairman said the new messages – with their mocking of Donald Trump and conservative causes – affirm Republican allegations of bias within the FBI and Justice Department.
But the text messages — sent between an FBI lawyer and a senior counterintelligence agent with years of experience investigating Russian espionage — also reflect deep concern over Russian efforts to attack American democracy and significant worries about the U.S. government’s willingness to stand up to the Kremlin.
The text messages go as far back as the Obama administration through June of last year.
“Is it going to take some f-----g 9/11-type event for everybody to stop saying, just coordinate better, have lots of meetings, figure it out?” agent Peter Strzok wrote to attorney Lisa Page in October 2016, as Strzok and his division within the FBI were investigating Russia’s efforts to hijack the 2016 presidential election and potentially coordinate with Trump’s associates.
Two months earlier, as the FBI’s investigation was getting underway, Strzok texted Page, “OMG l CANNOT BELIEVE WE ARE SERIOUSLY LOOKING AT THESE ALLEGATIONS AND THE PERVASIVE CONNECTIONS. What the hell has happened to our country!?!?!??”
In another text message around the same time, Strzok described Russian operatives as “conniving cheating savages.”
“At statecraft, athletics, you name it,” he wrote to Page. “I’m glad I’m on Team USA.”
But for months, Strzok – who described himself as a “conservative Dem” – questioned whether the Obama administration would respond strongly enough to Russia’s assault on the U.S. election.
“I have really no faith the administration will deal with it effectively,” Strzok wrote to Page in September 2016.
Page responded: “Nope. You shouldn't.”
In a text message a month earlier, Strzok told page he had been “thinking about what the administration will be willing to do re Russia.”
After expressing support for President Barack Obama, Strzok added, “Just not a fan of the weakness globally.”
Since his days on the campaign trail, Trump has consistently questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous conclusion that “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order,” and those “activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations,” as the intelligence community’s January 2017 report put it.
In August 2016, after Trump had been nominated as the Republican candidate for president and as Strzok was considering whether he should change jobs, Page texted Strzok: “[M]aybe you're meant to stay where you are because you're meant to protect the country from that menace.”
Trump’s own intelligence chiefs have endorsed the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to meddled in the 2016 election.
But Trump has dismissed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” insisting there is no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russian operatives. Mueller has charged two Trump associates with lying about their contacts with Russians.
On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, released roughly 384 text messages, which his committee obtained last month from the Justice Department. A small portion of the 384 text messages had been previously released to the public, and they span key moments over the past two years, including the beginning of the 2016 presidential race, the FBI’s announcement that Hillary Clinton would not be charged for use of a private email server while secretary of state, the firing of James Comey as FBI director, and the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Strzok and Page briefly worked on Mueller’s team last year. They left the team after the Justice Department’s inspector general uncovered the text messages taking aim at Republicans and Trump himself.