Bombshell text messages sent between two anti-Trump FBI agents eight days after the agency officially began investigating then-candidate Donald Trump was incredibly difficult to unearth - requiring a four-step investigative process, according to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz during Monday's Congressional testimony.
The August 8, 2016 text exchange in question can be found in the OIG report released last week on the FBI's conduct during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, in which former FBI attorney Lisa Page texts counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok: "(Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right? Right?!", to which Strzok replies: "No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it."
“Several FBI employees Who played critical roles in the investigation sent political messages,” IG report says.— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 14, 2018
It cites Lisa Page text to Peter Strzok: “(Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Two days before this exchange, Strzok told Page "I can protect our country at many levels."
Page: Trump should go F himself— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) June 15, 2018
Strzok: F Trump
Page: Maybe you’re meant to stay because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace
Strzok: I’ll try & approach it that way. I just know it’ll be tough... I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps pic.twitter.com/weqMcwFN4b
This series of anti-Trump texts began less than a week after the FBI began investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia on July 31, 2016 - less than two weeks after Donald Trump won the GOP primary race.
Then, on August 15, 2016, Strzok alludes to an "insurance policy," texting Page "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office - that there’s no way he gets elected - but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk," adding "It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40."
So - roughly three weeks after Trump's July 21 nomination as the GOP candidate, lead FBI employees investigating both Trump and Clinton privately discussed "stopping" Donald Trump, eight days after the agency says it launched its counterintelligence investigation. A week after the "We'll stop it" text, Strzok mentions deploying an "insurance policy" that his FBI mistress Lisa Page appeared hesitant to act on because "there's no way he [Trump] gets elected."
It's a good thing none of that bias found its way into their investigations - per the OIG report's rock solid and in no way influenced (we're sure) conclusion.
How hard were those texts to find?
During Monday's Congressional testimony, IG Horowitz said that while the initial trove of 50,000 Strzok-Page text messages were "easy" to recover, the exchange about "stopping" President Trump was much more "challenging" to find.
As Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller notes:
Horowitz said that while the initial process of obtaining Strzok-Page messages from the FBI was “easy,” recovering the “We’ll stop it” text proved “challenging.” He also said that the painstaking process used to recover the message and others raises concerns about the FBI’s text message retention system.
Horowitz said that the OIG’s cyber forensic team obtained Strzok and Page’s FBI phones in order to extract any missing text messages. The team then relied on an outside contractor that the agency frequently uses in order to see whether there were other forensic tools that could extract messages from the phones.
“They provided us with some additional tools, so we did a second extraction and gained more text messages,” Horowitz testified.
The third step was an outreach to the Department of Defense to see if Pentagon experts had any other tools that could be used for the investigation.
“They gave us those tools and we used that and we extracted more text messages,” said Horowitz. -Daily Caller
Then, finally - the OIG team reviewed data extracted in May during a "routine quality control check" where they found “that the phone had a database on it that was actually also doing a collection of text messages,” according to Horowitz.
“They extracted those messages from the phone and found the second part of the August 8 text, ‘No, no, We’ll stop it.'”
“It turned out that the FBI wasn’t aware that that database on there, which was supposed to be an operating function, was actually collecting data,” said Horowitz, who says he will release a report on the OIG’s text message recovery process.
“We are not convinced that the FBI was collecting 100 percent of the text messages,” he said.