By Maxim Lott
Published March 26, 2019
The conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation – and its determination that no evidence supports claims of Trump-Russia collusion – has spurred calls from President Trump’s allies to closely examine the probe’s origins at the FBI.
Trump, for his part, called to “look into” those who had created a “false narrative” sparking the investigation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already vowed to look into the FBI’s actions.
They’ll have plenty to sift through.
Here are just seven FBI actions and comments, covered in controversial text messages, that have raised questions about the impartiality of the probe.
On Aug. 8, 2016, FBI lawyer Lisa Page texted her lover, Peter Strzok, who was in charge of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton and later worked on the Russia probe: "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"
Strzok responded on his FBI-issued work phone: "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."
The text was discovered by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Justice, after the FBI failed to uncover the message on its own.
The IG report was scathing about Strzok’s text.
“It is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects,” the IG report stated.
The inspector general’s office also asked Strzok for his response.
“When asked about this text message, Strzok stated that he did not specifically recall sending it, but that he believed that it was intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation,” the report notes.
Strzok later told the House Judiciary Committee that he meant Americans in general would stop Trump in 2016.
In an Aug. 15, 2016 text message, Strzok told Page: "I want to believe ... that there's no way Trump gets elected—but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40."
Critics say the text implies Strzok wanted the investigation to hurt Trump in case he were to win.
Strzok told the IG and the House Judiciary Committee that his text meant an investigation should happen right away.
“My use of the phrase ‘insurance policy’ was simply to say, while the polls or people might think it is less likely that then-candidate Trump would be elected, that should not influence ... us doing our job responsibly,” Strzok told the House Judiciary Committee.
Despite having called the Russia situation an “insurance policy” and having pressed for more vigorous investigation, a text from May 17, 2017 shows Strzok had doubts.
In texts to Page, Strzok questioned whether he should join Mueller’s team investigating Trump and Russia because: "you and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely I'd be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there's no big there there."
Asked by the inspector general about this text, Strzok said he was merely questioning whether collusion was coordinated or just involved “a bunch of opportunists.”
Strzok ultimately joined the team investigating Trump, before being removed and then fired, after the IG report revealed his texts.
In February 2016, while Hillary Clinton was under investigation for improper handling of classified information, the Department of Justice wanted to send four attorneys to question Clinton.
But FBI attorney Page urged both Strzok and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to only allow two DOJ people to be sent.
“Our best reason to hold the line at 2 and 2 is: She might be our next president,” Page explained to McCabe via text. “The last thing we need is us going in there loaded for bear, when it is not operationally necessary... This is as much about reputational protection as anything.”
The inspector general’s office asked Page about that and reported that she told them “while ‘it’s irrelevant whether or not [Clinton]...would or would not become president...if she did become president, I don’t want her left with a feeling that...the FBI marched in with an army of 50 in order to interview me.’”
Page and others did not appear to express similar concern about Trump’s feelings once his turn for investigation came.
Ultimately, all four DOJ prosecutors were allowed to interview Clinton, who brought nine of her own lawyers to the interview.
The inspector general also found several pro-Clinton texts that other FBI employees sent from work phones, from “I’m with her,” to quips about being “done interviewing the President” -- even though Clinton had not won the election yet.
McCabe, in his book and in press summaries, said that Trump asked him whether he should give a speech to FBI agents after James Comey had been fired as FBI director and when McCabe was filling in for him.
Trump asked both McCabe and his chief counsel Don McGahn if such a speech would be helpful.
While McCabe says he told Trump such a speech would be fine, he later wrote that Trump’s question really reminded him of "a case involving the Russian Mafia, when I sent a man I’ll call Big Felix in to meet with a Mafia boss... The same kind of thing was happening here."
“The president and his men were trying to work me the way a criminal brigade would operate,” McCabe added.
The inspector general report found an exchange between FBI employees on their work phones from Nov. 9, just after the election.
“I can’t stop crying,” one unidentified FBI employee said.
“That makes me even more sad... I can’t stop stressing about what I could have done differently,” an unidentified FBI attorney replied.
The same FBI employee who discussed crying after the election also used an FBI-issued device to direct class-based disdain toward Trump supporters: “Trump’s supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS that think he will magically grant them jobs for doing nothing.”
Peter Strzok used similar language, saying in one text: “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support....”