New Strzok-Page Texts Raise Questions About FBI Attempts to Surveil Trump Transition Team

By Susan Jones | April 26, 2019 | 6:01am EDT
Former FBI counter-intelligence agent Peter Strzok. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

( - Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Finance Committee, and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, have new information, including Strzok-Page text messages, they believe would be helpful to Attorney General William Barr as he investigates alleged spying on the Trump campaign.

"We bring to your attention information that may assist your review," the two senators wrote to Barr on Thursday, April 25. The new information includes newly scrutinized text messages exchanged in November 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page.

First, in the course of our oversight work we have reviewed certain text messages that may show potential attempts by the FBI to conduct surveillance of President-elect Trump's transition team.

In text messages exchanged between former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI Attorney Lisa Page, the two discussed the possibility of developing "potential relationships" at a November 2016 FBI briefing for presidential transition team staff. Specifically, it appears they discussed sending "the CI [counter-intelligence] guy" to assess an unnamed person(s) "demeanor" but were concerned because it might be unusual for him to attend."

According to Grassley and Johnson, "The nature of these communications, and the precise purpose of any attempts to 'develop relationships' with Trump or Pence transition team staff are not immediately clear.

"Were these efforts done to gain better communication between the respective parties, or were the briefings used as intelligence gathering operations?" they asked.

"Further, did any such surveillance activities continue beyond the inauguration, and in the event they did, were those activities subject to proper predication? Any improper FBI surveillance activities that were conducted before or after the 2016 election must be brought to light and properly addressed."

Grassley and Johnson asked Barr to schedule a briefing with committee staff and to answer the following questions no later than May 9:

1. Please describe the nature and extent of your review of FBI surveillance of the Trump Campaign, President-elect Trump's transition staff, Vice President-elect Pence's transition staff, President Trump's staff, and Vice President Pence's staff, including your efforts to determine whether that surveillance was adequately predicated.

2. How many counter-intelligence briefings were provided to the Trump and Pence transition staffs prior to Inauguration Day? Please list the dates, all agencies involved, and each official that represented those agencies at the briefings.

3. Many of the FBI employees involved in these activities are no longer employed by the federal government. How will your review obtain information needed from these individuals?

4. Will you commit to providing the results of your review once completed?

5. What steps have you taken to investigate whether DOJ or FBI officials had unauthorized contacts with the media during the Russia investigation?

"We anticipate that your written reply and most responsive documents will be unclassified," the senators wrote.

President Trump, speaking by phone to Fox News's Sean Hannity Thursday night, was asked about allegations that the FBI may have considered recruiting White House sources to spy on him:

"Well, I think it's incredible when you hear it," Trump said. "That sounds like big, big stuff. I'm not surprised."

In their letter, the senators transcribed the Strzok-Page texts of interest, all written after the election and referring to a meeting with the Trump transition team:

Strzok: Talking with Bill. Do we want Joe to go with Evanina instead of Charlie for a variety of reasons?

Page: Hmm. Not sure. Would it be unusual to have [sic] show up again? Maybe another agent from the team?

Strzok: Or, he's "the CI guy." Same.might [sic] make sense. He can assess if thete [sic] are any news [sic] Qs, or different demeanor. If Katie's husband is there, he can see if there are people we can develop for potential relationships

Page: Should I ask Andy about it? Or Bill want to reach out for andy?

Strzok: I told him I'm sure we could ask you to make the swap if we thought it was smart. It's not until Mon so Bill can always discuss with him tomorrow.

Attorney General Barr told Congress earlier this month that he thinks "spying did occur” on the Trump campaign. “The question is whether it was adequately predicated.”

Barr said he would review "both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016. A lot of this has already been investigated, and a substantial portion of it has been investigated and is being investigated by the Office of Inspector General at the department, but one of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the department and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed,” Barr said.

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