Justice Department watchdog not consulted before FBI texts released

By Allen Cone  |  Dec. 16, 2017 at 11:37 AM
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Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The Justice Department's inspector general's office said it wasn't consulted before the agency released text messages sent between two FBI agents to the media.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz had discovered FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page had exchanged texts critical of Donald Trump and favorable of his presidential campaign opponent Hillary Clinton. Strzok and Page are no longer part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

The texts were obtained as part of an inspector general's investigation into how the FBI handled the probe into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Horowitz's office said he wrote a letter Friday to the House Judiciary Committee that he needed to "determine whether releasing the text messages met applicable ethical and legal standards before providing them to Congress." Instead, Justice Department officials shared the texts with Congress and members of the media Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified to the House committee that he had consulted with the inspector general before releasing the messages.

"The determination was made that it is so we gave notice to their attorneys, we notified the committee and our goal, congressman, is to make sure that it's clear to you and the American people we are not concealing anything that's embarrassing to the FBI," he added.

Sarah Flores, the director of the Justice Department's office of public affairs, said in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday that Horowitz's letter was "entirely consistent" with her past statements about no objections to the Justice Department's decision to release the messages to Congress.

Later Friday, the inspector general's office sent a new statement, that Horowitz "did not object" to the department releasing certain records to Congress, including the texts.

But it said: "At no time prior to the release of the text messages did the department consult with the OIG about providing records to the media."

House Republicans have questioned the impartiality of the FBI and of Mueller's investigative team.

"We are now beginning to understand the magnitude of this insider bias on Mr. Mueller's team," said Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

But Rosenstein defended the investigators.

"I think it's important to recognize that when we talk about political affiliation ... the issue of bias is something different," Rosenstein testified. We "recognize we have employees with political opinions. It's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions."

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