Republican investigators on the House Intelligence Committee formally requested former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s work-related text messages as part of their surveillance abuse inquiry last March, but they were denied, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The sources questioned whether the rejection amounted to an obstruction of congressional oversight, after Fox News on Friday published previously unseen texts between then-FBI Deputy Director McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page discussing numerous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) matters.
An attorney for McCabe, the FBI, and the DOJ did not respond to Fox News' requests for comment following the publication of the texts on Friday.
In their document request, dated March 23, 2018, House investigators demanded the DOJ and FBI promptly turn over "all documents and communications, including emails and text messages" in which Page, McCabe, and seven others "discussed, referenced, or undertook work regarding [British ex-spy] Christopher Steele, the Steele dossier, related FISA applications and the application process."
Other individuals included in the House GOP's request for information were former FBI Director James Comey, then-Special Agent Peter Strzok, and senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr -- who became a back channel between Steele and the FBI, after Steele was fired by the bureau on the eve of the 2016 presidential election over his contacts with the media.
“The answer from DOJ was, 'We’re working on this' -- kicking the can down the road was a constant theme,” one source explained.
On Thursday, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, speaking during a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., confirmed that his office is continuing to probe potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses.
“We have a FISA-related review that people might have heard about that the deputy attorney general asked us to take a look at," Horowitz said. "But I’m not going to dwell on that."
Fox News is told the IG's office is in the advanced stages of a probe not only into the FISA matters, but also into FBI media leaks and improper gifts received by FBI officials from reporters -- all of which were flagged as subjects for further review in the IG's initial report on DOJ and FBI misconduct last year.
Just nine days before the FBI applied for a FISA warrant to surveil a top Trump campaign aide, bureau officials were battling with a senior Justice Department official who had "continued concerns" about the "possible bias" of a source pivotal to the application, according to internal text messages obtained by Fox News and published on Friday.
Fox News is told the texts were connected to the ultimately successful Carter Page surveillance application, which relied in part on information from Steele – whose anti-Trump views are now well-documented – and cited Page’s suspected Russia ties. In its warrant application, the FBI incorrectly assured the FISA court on numerous occasions that other sources independently corroborated Steele's claims and did not clearly state that Steele worked for a firm hired by Hillary Clinton's campaign.
The 2016 messages also reveal that bureau brass circulated at least two anti-Trump blog articles, including a Lawfare blog post sent shortly after Election Day that called Trump possibly "among the major threats to the security of the country."
Another article, sent by Page in July 2016 as the FBI's counterintelligence probe into Russian election interference was kicking off, flatly called Trump a "useful idiot" for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Page told McCabe that then-FBI Director James Comey had "surely" read that piece. Both articles were authored in whole or part by Benjamin Wittes, a Comey friend.
Further, the texts show that on Sept. 12, 2016, Page forwarded to McCabe some "unsolicited comments" calling then-GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy a "total d--k." Gowdy, at the time, was grilling FBI congressional affairs director Jason Herring at a hearing on the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation.
Responding to the texts, Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus; wrote on Twitter: "Remember: as FBI and DOJ officials sought to surveil the Trump campaign through a FISA, they were well aware of anti-Trump bias involved with their 'pivotal' sources. They knew. But they proceeded anyway. They were determined to target Trump."