Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release to the media of text messages between ‘FBI lovebirds’ Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, many of which revealed deep animus towards then-candidate Donald Trump while they were investigating him during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Politico.
In a Friday night court filing submitted shortly before midnight, Rosenstein says he made the decision to protect Strzok and Page from the damaging effects of lawmakers and others releasing the texts for use as political ammunition.
In the messages, Strzok and Page regularly disparaged Trump and appeared to seek to reassure each other he could not be elected. Both called Trump an “idiot” and said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton deserved to win.
The texts also included murky discussions of an “insurance policy” to guard against Trump’s election. Trump backers have interpreted the reference as a plan to use the then-ongoing investigation into ties between Trump advisers and Russia as way to prevent him from taking office or undermine his presidency, but Strzok and Page have denied any such intent. –Politico
Lisa Page – who sued the DOJ and FBI in December over the release, appears to be pissed.
All I can say is this: I very much look forward to Rod’s deposition. https://t.co/so43a38WBh
— Lisa Page (@NatSecLisa) January 18, 2020
Strzok has separately sued the agencies as well – for which Rosenstein’s admission was submitted as part of the government’s defense. The former DAG says that public disclosure of the texts was inevitable in connection with testimony he was set to give the next day in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
“With the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event, I authorized [Justice’s Office of Public Affairs] to disclose to the news media the text messages that were being disclosed to Congressional committees,” wrote Rosenstein.
In November, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to throw out Strzok’s suit, which challenges both his firing from the FBI and the release of the texts. However, Strzok’s attorneys countered in a court filing last month that one reason to allow the suit to proceed was that Justice Department was being vague about just who made the final call to give the messages.
Arguing that an air of mystery continued to surround the disclosure, Strzok lawyer Aitan Goelman called “revealing” Justice’s decision to seek dismissal of the suit without identifying the responsible official.
“An agency cannot avoid Privacy Act liability for a disclosure actually made for an improper purpose by eliciting a sanitized after-the-fact rationale from an official who does not have all of the facts,” Goelman wrote. –Politico
According to Rosenstein, his aides originally suggested that he should delay sending the texts to Congress until after his testimony in front of the House, however he thought it would be “inappropriate” to do so for that reason. He also said he decided to give them to the media prior to his testimony over concerns that they would be cherrypicked and weaponized.
“The Department’s Office of Public Affairs … recommended providing the text messages to the media because otherwise, some congressional members and staff were expected to release them intermittently before, during and after the hearing, exacerbating the adverse publicity for Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page and the Department,” wrote Rosenstein. “Providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures and minimize the appearance of the Department concealing information that was embarrassing to the FBI.”
See the filing below: