An FBI official says the bureau is not working to collect messages between anti-Trump FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, despite the request to do so from a top Republican senator as well as evidence suggesting they communicated about “work-related” matters on non-FBI accounts.
In a letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Charles Thorley, the acting assistant director of the FBI’s office of congressional affairs, said FBI employees are “required to adhere to record keeping policies in place where communications constitute records under the Federal Records Act.”
But Thorley said “the FBI is not otherwise obligated to collect and/or retain all communications between its employees.”
“Thus, the FBI has not requested from Ms. Page or Mr. Strzok any information from their personal email accounts, nor as the FBI conducted searches of non-FBI-issued communications devices or non-FBI email accounts associated with Mr. Strzok or Ms. Page,” he said.
In a Friday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray obtained by Fox News, Grassley encouraged the bureau to obtain the messages.
“The work-related communications on nongovernment systems could shed more light on how the FBI handled the Clinton investigation and would constitute federal records that the FBI would be obligated to retrieve and preserve under the Federal Records Act,” Grassley said.
The Justice Department last week released a series of redacted Strzok-Page text messages to congressional committees. The messages show the FBI officials repeatedly referring to personal accounts, like “gmail” and “imsg” — short for the text message system on iPhones, iMessage.
“Can I imsg a work q?” Strzok texted Page on April 5, 2017.
The following day, Strzok texted: “Hey clear gmail…”
Strzok added in a later text, “Sent something to your gmail, work-related. Think I’m going to pull here and send to [Michael] Kortan…”
Kortan, a confidant of former FBI Director James Comey and longtime head of public affairs, retired from the FBI in February.
Strzok also texted on April 16: “Can I imsg something work-related?”
Again, on April 27, Strzok texted Page: “Am I ok to imsg you a Q? Won’t be able to for an hour or so.”
And on May 4, 2017: “Can I imsg a work q?”
In January, Grassley, R-Iowa, penned a letter to Wray after flagging similar text messages between Strzok and Page.
“It appears that Strzok and Page transmitted federal records pertaining to the Clinton investigation on private, non-government services,” Grassley wrote.
He asked whether the FBI has sought additional communications from their personal accounts and devices. Grassley, referencing the bureau's probe of Hillary Clinton's private email server use as secretary of state, also questioned whether “their own similar conduct was a factor in not focusing on and developing evidence of similar violations by Secretary Clinton and her aides.”
Strzok was a top figure in the bureau’s Clinton investigation.
Retired FBI special agent John Iannarelli told Fox News that Strzok and Page communicating on personal devices could pose a problem.
“Specifically saying this is work related means you want to write something that is not discoverable by the FBI. They routinely check devices and they can be looked at, at any time, for any reason as part of FBI policy,” Iannarelli said.
Iannarelli said it was “improper” practice, and seemingly on purpose.
“If you’re using your personal account, there would need to be an investigation and a subpoena [to obtain those messages], which could be forthcoming,” Iannarelli said. “There is a serious problem with an FBI agent purposefully wishing to take bureau-related matters to an unsecure platform for the purposes of not being discovered by their employee,” Iannarelli told Fox News.
Iannarelli told Fox News that FBI policy is to communicate solely on FBI-issued devices for work-related matters.
It is unclear, at this point, whether congressional committees plan to request or subpoena personal communications between Strzok and Page.
Strzok and Page both joined Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in 2017.
Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team in August, following revelations that Strzok and Page were romantically involved and exchanged politically charged texts. Lawmakers have since obtained messages revealing anti-Trump sentiments.
A spokesman for Mueller told Fox News in July that Page was only on staff for a 45-day detail and, upon concluding work, returned to the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel.
Strzok currently serves in the FBI’s human resources division.