(CNSNews.com) - Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified in the Senate Judiciary Committee today that then-FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe said he did “not recall” whether he was at an August 2016 meeting allegedly held in his own office--that included his then-counsel Lisa Page and then-FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok--in which Page, according to a text message by Strzok, argued “there’s no way he [Trump] gets elected.”
Both Page and Strzok had been involved in the Clinton email investigation and both were at the time of the August meeting involved in the investigation of Russian involvement in the presidential election.
At today’s hearing, after saying that it was the IG’s understanding that the meeting was in McCabe’s office, Horowitz said: “I’ll be clear, I can’t speak to whether McCabe, Mr. McCabe, was there or not.”
'He Said He Did Not Recall'
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) then asked Horowitz: “Did you ask Mr. McCabe?”
Horowitz responded: “We did. He said he did not recall.”
The IG report released last week said that Strzok and Page exchanged multiple text messages that included “statements of hostility toward then candidate Trump and statements of support for candidate Clinton.”
“[W]e identified text messages exchanged between DAD Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, Special Counsel to former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, on their FBI-issued cell phones,” the report said. “These text messages included political opinions about candidates and issues involved in the 2016 presidential election, including statements of hostility toward then candidate Trump and statements of support for candidate Clinton.
“Several of their text messages also appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about the Midyear and Russia investigations, raising a question as to whether Strzok’s and Page’s political opinions may have affected investigative decisions,” said the report.
“In addition to being involved in the Midyear and Russia investigations, both Page and Strzok were also briefly assigned to the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III,” said the report.
The IG reported that Strzok and Page were having an affair. The report says: “Many of the text messages were of a personal nature, including discussions about their families, medical issues, and daily events, and reflected that Strzok and Page were communicating on their FBI-issued phones as part of an extramarital affair.”
They also worked not only on the Clinton email investigation, but then, starting in July 2016, on the investigation of Russian involvement in the U.S. election, and then, later, in the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“In addition to their roles in the Midyear investigation, both Page and Strzok were involved in the FBI investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” says the IG report.
“Strzok was assigned to lead the Russia investigation in late July 2016,” says the report. “Page also worked on the Russia investigation, and told us that she served the same liaison function as she did in the Midyear investigation. Both Page and Strzok accepted invitations to work on the Special Counsel staff in 2017.”
On August 8, 2016, after Strzok had been assigned to lead the Russia investigation in “late July 2016, he and Page had a text message exchange which the IG described as follows:
“In a text message on August 8, 2016, Page stated, ‘[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!’ Strzok responded, ‘No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.’”
Interestingly, Page’s half of this text-message exchange was provided to the IG by the FBI, but not Strzok’s response—in which he said of Trump getting elected “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
A footnote in the report explains how the IG had to recover this half of the text exchange through its own forensic analysis of “a folder found on Page’s and Strzok’s Samsung S5 devices.”
The footnote says:
“Although we received Page’s August 8 text message to Strzok from the FBI as part of its production of text messages in 2017, Strzok’s response to Page was not among those preserved by the FBI’s text message preservation software, and therefore was not produced to us. The OIG’s Cyber Investigations Office recovered this text message, along with others, in May 2018 through forensic analysis of a folder found on Page’s and Strzok’s Samsung S5 devices.”
In the IG report, the IG says that Strzok said he ‘did not recall sending’ this text. The report says:
“When asked about this text message, Strzok stated that he did not specifically recall sending it, but that he believed that it was intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation. Strzok told the OIG that he did not take any steps to try to affect the outcome of the presidential election, in either the Midyear investigation or the Russia investigation.”
A week later on August 15, 2016, Strzok and Page had another text message exchange in which Strzok referenced a meeting they had had in “Andy’s office.” The IG reported it this way:
“In a text message exchange on August 15, 2016, Strzok told 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. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40....’ The ‘Andy’ referred to in the text message appears to be FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe was not a party to this text message, and we did not find evidence that he received it.”
The IG reported that McCabe “recalled no such conversation” and that Page said “she did not know what the text message meant.” The IG report said:
“In an interview with the OIG, McCabe was shown the text message and he told us that he did not know what Strzok was referring to in the message and recalled no such conversation. Page likewise told us she did not know what that text message meant, but that the team had discussions about whether the FBI would have the authority to continue the Russia investigation if Trump was elected. Page testified that she did not find a reference in her notes to a meeting in McCabe’s office at that time.”
Strzok also told the IG that “he did not remember the specific conversation,” but nonetheless, “provided a lengthy explanation” for the text message. The IG reported:
“Strzok provided a lengthy explanation for this text message. In substance, Strzok told us that he did not remember the specific conversation, but that it likely was part of a discussion about how to handle a variety of allegations of ‘collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the government of Russia.’ As part of this discussion, the team debated how aggressive to be and whether to use overt investigative methods. Given that Clinton was the ‘prohibitive favorite’ to win, Strzok said that they discussed whether it made sense to compromise sensitive sources and methods to ‘bring things to some sort of precipitative conclusion and understanding.’ Strzok said the reference in his text message to an “insurance policy” reflected his conclusion that the FBI should investigate the allegations thoroughly right away, as if Trump were going to win. Strzok stated that Clinton’s position in the polls did not ultimately impact the investigative decisions that were made in the Russia matter.”
At Monday’s hearing, Sen. Graham read the August 8 and August 15 text exchanges between Strzok and Page to IG Horowitz.
In responding to the questions asked by Graham, Horowitz said that former FBI Director McCabe had told the IG “he does not recall whether he was there or not” in the meeting described in Strzok’s August 15 text.
Here is the transcript of the exchange between Graham and Horowitz:
Graham: “Do you believe it was pretty clear to everybody in the country by July 5 that Donald Trump was the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party?"
Horowitz: "That’s my recollection, and from the texts it’s pretty clear--"
Graham: "The convention was on the 18th."
Horowitz: "--and the texts reflect that as well."
Graham: “Okay, I am going to read this text message from Page to Strzok on August 8, after he had gotten the nomination. She says: ‘[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!’ Strzok responded, ‘No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.’ Now, I don’t know how you feel about that. That’s pretty unnerving. Strzok—wasn’t he the lead investigator of the Clinton email investigation?"
Horowitz: "He was in essence the lead investigator."
Graham: "Okay, so the head guy looking at Clinton on August 8 says we got to stop Trump. Now, was that just idol talk? A week later, here is what they say to each other. Strzok text message to Lisa 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. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.’ Now that’s a week later. Who’s Andy?"
Horowitz: “Our understanding it was Andy McCabe, the deputy director."
Graham: "So, you got the deputy director meeting with the lead investigator of the Clinton email investigation and Miss Page, who’s involved somehow, meeting in Andy’s office discussing taking out an insurance policy to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t become president. Is that what you are telling us?"
Horowitz: “I’ll be clear, I can’t speak to whether McCabe, Mr. McCabe, was there or not—"
Graham: "Did you ask Mr. McCabe?"
Horowitz: "We did. He said he did not recall."
Graham: “So, one of them’s lying. So, I want you to re-open this investigation and come back and tell us: Do you believe Strzok or do you believe McCabe? Because you just told me the deputy director of the FBI says he is not the Andy."
Horowitz: “Oh, he doesn’t---Just to be clear. They are talking about a conversation in his office. He’s claiming, he is saying, he does not recall whether he was there or not and neither of those individuals are putting him in the middle of their conversation."
Graham: "All I am saying is that the Andy’s office where this occurred, he wasn’t there. What does Strzok? Does Strzok say he was there?"
Horowitz: "Strzok says he was there."
Graham: "Well, somebody’s lying. So, anyway, we’ll figure that out later."