Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election has been clouded by revelations that two former members of his team sent negative text messages about President Trump.
In the messages, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were romantically involved, bash Trump and discuss concerns about being too tough on Hillary Clinton during an investigation into the use of her private email server. The pair exchanged some 50,000 text messages throughout the presidential election and first year of the Trump administration, many of them with anti-Trump sentiments.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., gave Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a March 15 deadline to provide a timeline of the pair’s exchanges, Fox News learned.
In a letter to Rosenstein, Johnson pointed out texts between Strzok and Page suggested the FBI waited nearly a month to act after finding new emails found on Weiner’s laptop during the criminal investigation into his relationship with a minor.
“Got called up to Andy’s earlier … hundreds of thousands of emails turned over by Weiner’s atty to sdny, includes a ton of material from spouse,” Strzok wrote in a text to Page, referring to Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top aide.
“Turned over to them why?” Page replied.
“Apparently one of his recent texting partners may not have been 18 … don’t have the details yet,” Strzok wrote. Page responded noting that news reports said the young woman “was 15.”
Johnson said the “cryptic and disjointed nature” of the texts, along with heavy redactions by the FBI, made the sequence of the events unclear.
Here’s a look at who exchanged the text messages, and who will leave the FBI.
Peter Strzok is a veteran counterintelligence agent who was assigned to both the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server and Muller’s probe into possible collusion between Trump officials and Russians during the election.
Strzok was removed from the Russia investigation after it was revealed that he exchanged anti-Trump text messages with Page, a senior FBI lawyer.
ABC first reported that Strzok left the probe and was reassigned to the human resources division in August 2017.
According to the text messages, Strzok was hesitant to join Mueller’s investigation because of his “gut sense” that there was “no big there there.”
Strzok, a former Army ranger, also oversaw the FBI’s interviews with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He previously worked on investigations pertaining to Chinese and Russian espionage, according to The New York Times.
A lawyer for the FBI, Lisa Page was only temporarily on Mueller’s team, but she discussed the investigation with Strzok.
Page warned Strzok via text about the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, saying in February 2016 that she “might be our next president.”
“The last thing you need [is] going in there loaded for bear,” Page continued. “You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more [DOJ] than [FBI]?”
Page and Strzok also discussed preparing talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey to give to President Barack Obama because he wanted “to know everything we’re doing,” she said.
Page, who has “deep experience [in] money laundering and organized crime cases,” was removed from the investigation in September 2017.
A controversial figure at the FBI, deputy director Andrew McCabe was seemingly referenced by Page and Strzok in their text messages.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok texted on Aug. 15, 2016. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Some lawmakers believed “Andy” to be a reference to McCabe.
McCabe, whose wife ran as a Democrat for a Virginia Senate seat with financial assistance from a group tied to Clinton, was a controversial figure in the bureau. He repeatedly faced criticism from Trump.
“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump asked in a Dec. 2017 tweet.
On Jan. 29, McCabe was “removed” from his post, taking “terminal leave” until his planned retirement, Fox News reported.
The Department of Justice and Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions launched a probe into missing text messages between Strzok and Page earlier this month. More than 50,000 messages were initially missing from the time between the presidential transition and the launch of Mueller’s probe.
“We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source,” Sessions told Fox News on Jan. 22. “If we are successful, we will update the congressional committees immediately.”
Two days later, the Justice Department said the missing text messages had been recovered.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was tasked with overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election after Sessions recused himself.
Mueller led the FBI through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served under presidential administrations of both parties.
His Russia probe has led to charges for four former Trump campaign officials, although none of the charges directly stem from misconduct during the election.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.