(CNSNews.com) -- The FBI apparently tried to hide the cost of former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's office conference table -- $70,000 -- in the redacted text messages exchanged between demoted agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, a curious fact uncovered by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been trying since last year to compel the FBI to release all of the Strzok-Page texts to Congress.
Strzok was the former top counterintelligence officer at the FBI involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation; he also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating alleged Trump-Russia collusion. Lisa Page was a top FBI attorney who worked for Deputy Director McCabe and briefly for Mueller. McCabe, the No. 2 at the Bureau, was fired in January 2018 for lying to FBI investigators on four occasions, three of them under oath.
Strzok and Page were staunchly anti-Trump, as their text messages have revealed. The two agents were also having an extramarital affair.
In a May 23 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Chairman Grassley said his staff had reviewed "less redacted versions of the Strzok and Page text message productions provided to the Committee" on May 1 and May 18. Grassley complained that the FBI had not provided a "redaction key" to the Senate Committee, leaving the committee "in the dark about the justification the Department is relying upon to withhold that information from Congress."
"As one example of redacted material, in a text message produced to the Committee, the price of Andrew McCabe's $70,000 conference table was redacted," said Grassley.
"In another, an official's name was redacted in reference to a text about the Obama White House 'running' an investigation, although it is unclear to which investigation they were referring," wrote Grassley.
The letter, in a footnote, quotes the un-redacted text from Lisa Page to Peter Strzok. It reads: "Page: No way to change the room. The table alone was [70k]. (You can't repeat that!) No, instead it just means we now have to get a small conference table for his actual office, so that he [McCabe] can actually have a meeting that is intimate."
The other text quoted by Grassley about "running" an investigation was from Strzok to Page, and it reads: "Strzok: And hi. Went well, best we could have expected. Other than [Liz's] quote, 'the White House is running this.'"
Grassley further stated to Rosenstein, "Congress, and the public, have a right to know how the Department spends taxpayer money. I am unaware of any legitimate basis on which the cost of a conference table should be redacted. Embarrassment is not a good enough reason. The manner in which some redactions have been used casts doubt on whether the remaining redactions are necessary and defensible."
"Accordingly," please provide un-redacted copies of all text messages produced to the Committee no later than June 6, 2018," said Grassley. "Should the Department continue to refuse to provide fully un-redacted copies to Congress, please provide a privilege log describing the legal basis for withholding that information from Congress."