As conservatives continue to question the objectivity of the FBI, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he would investigate how a number of text messages from two bureau employees went missing.
On Monday right-wing media and social media users began a #FindTheTexts hashtag after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that texts by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page from Dec. 14, 2016 to May 17, 2017 were missing. The two employees had sent disparaging texts about President Donald Trump.
Strzok and Page worked in some capacity on both the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The text messages between Strzok and Page have also been used as a way to try and discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Page worked on Mueller’s probe for 45 days, ending in July, and Strzok was reassigned after the discovery of the anti-Trump messages.
As pressure mounted, Sessions said on Monday he spoke to the inspector general to “ascertain what occurred” in regards to the missing text messages and [to] determine if these records can be recovered in any other way,” CNN reports.
“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 said. “If any wrongdoing were to be found to have caused this gap, appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump weighed in on the missing text messages, calling them “one of the biggest stories in a long time.”
“In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2018
The missing text messages have become a breaking point for some conservative lawmakers, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
Meadows said the missing texts make it “abundantly clear” a second special counsel is needed to investigate the FBI.
“This is a ‘my dog ate my homework’ level excuse,” Meadows tweeted. “Americans deserve to know if there was rampant anti-Trump bias at the FBI, and certainly if there was an effort to cover it up. We need a second special counsel.”
Other lawmakers also felt similarly.
We need to #ReleaseTheMemo & all relevant material sourced in the doc. We need to find out what happened to the 5 mths of Strzok and Page texts. We want to know how the Trump-Russia probe got started & how the Clinton probe ended! https://t.co/cYldglHcV0
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) January 23, 2018
The omission of text messages between December 2016 and May 2017, a critical gap encompassing the FBI's Russia investigation, is equally concerning.
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) January 23, 2018
Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, even went as far as saying Strzok and Page mentioned a “secret society” in their messages.
“[T]he day after the election … there is a text exchange between these two FBI agents, these supposed to be fact-centric FBI agents saying, ‘Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society,'” Gowdy said on Fox. “So I’m going to want to know what secret society you are talking about, because you’re supposed to be investigating objectively the person who just won the Electoral College.”
The right-wing media also jumped on the story—including Fox Business host Lou Dobbs who called for “top people” to be taken into custody during a segment about the missing text messages. Dobbs also floated out a conspiracy theory that the end date of the missing texts, May 17, was the day Mueller was appointed as special counsel.
Time to cut out the rot in the upper levels of FBI and DOJ: corrupt and incompetent, and every bit as dangerous as our enemies. And why haven't FBI Special Agents come forward in droves to reveal the corruption of their crooked officials? #MAGA #TrumpTrain #AmericaFirst #DTS https://t.co/aRZvulI5ao
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) January 23, 2018
“I can’t understand why Christopher Wray was permitted to even with a straight face to suggest those had been lost and why they, I can’t understand why the U.S. Marshalls haven’t been dispatched to the Justice Department and FBI to sequester everything and to at least take into custody the top people who are responsible for the operations of those organizations.”