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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Who's Afraid of Lisa Page?


In his testimony before the House, embattled former FBI Counterintelligence official Peter Strzok maintained that, contrary to all logical inference, any statements in text messages between himself and FBI attorney Lisa Page that appeared to exhibit bias against Donald Trump could never have affected his investigative actions. However, John Solomon, in his brilliant article (One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American), has shown that Strzok's texts actually demonstrate FBI bias at the very inception of the Special Counsel investigation. In a series of texts dated 5/19/17 (two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel) Strzok stated to Page: "you and I both know ... there's no big there there." Page, in testimony to the House that followed on that of Strzok, has confirmed that the sense of this text referred to the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In fact, the texts show that Strzok explicitly viewed the Special Counsel investigation not as an investigation into criminal wrongdoing--as required by the Special Counsel statute--but as "an investigation leading to impeachment." In other words, he viewed the Mueller "probe" as an essentially political use of the Special Counsel statute to rid the Washington establishment of a president they didn't want. A goal he was heartily in favor of. This abuse of the Special Counsel statute constitutes, as Solomon points out, "political bias in action."


Understandably, the attention that has been focused on these Strzok/Page texts has made Strzok the poster boy of the FBI's assault on constitutional government. However, it's worth reviewing several additional facts that are left unmentioned in Solomon's article.

First of all, it's highly unlikely that DAG Rod Rosenstein would ever have authorized a Special Counsel investigation without consulting with the Director of the FBI--for the simple reason that the Mueller "probe" purports to be an extension of an already existing FBI investigation. Rosenstein would want to be assured by the Director that there were reasonable grounds to believe that there was a there there in the first place. No matter what Rosenstein's personal motives in authorizing a Special Counsel investigation, this is the legal form that he would need to justify that authorization.

The FBI Director would, in turn, be advised in these matters by his General Counsel. At the time in question that would have been James A. Baker--no longer with the FBI, resigned under a cloud. The Director would also want to consult with his Deputy, who would be closer to the facts of the actual investigation that was ongoing.

Now, the revealing text exchange between Strzok and Page occurred on 5/19/17, but they followed closely on two important events. On 5/9/17 James Comey was fired as Director, FBI, a week before the Special Counsel was appointed. That means that on the day that Robert Mueller was appointed as the Special Counsel, 5/17/17, Andrew McCabe--formerly the Deputy Director of the FBI--was the Acting Dirctor of the FBI. In other words, Rosenstein would presumably have consulted with McCabe regarding the FBI's investigation, and we already know that McCabe had a well developed animus against President Trump. We also know that McCabe may have altered 302s--key evidence--against Michael Flynn. FBI whistleblowers have even quoted McCabe's famous statement at a conference: "First we f*ck Flynn, the we f*ck Trump."

How does Lisa Page fit into all this? The tendency is to view Strzok and Page as co-workers, but it's important to remember that in fact Page was two levels above Strzok in the organizational chart at the FBI. Page's actual position was that of legal adviser to ... Andrew McCabe. That means that in all probability Page would have been privy not only to McCabe's views re Trump, but also to the discussions between McCabe and Comey and with James A. Baker. We know from other text messages that this was indeed the case, because in many messages she references discussions with some of these top level officials at the FBI. She would therefore have been very well informed regarding thinking at the policy making level of the FBI regarding the actual credibility of the allegations against Trump. And that means that when Strzok told her "you and I both know ... there's no big there there," and Page offered no push back--perhaps, "No, Andy says it's all for real!"--Page is in all likelihood reflecting not only her personal view but also the accepted view at the top of the FBI.

Page's cooperation with the House investigation--and presumably with the IG and Huber investigations--is therefore very bad news not just for Strzok but, more importantly, for the key decision makers at the FBI and DoJ.

2 comments:

Yancey Ward said...

Page is definitely an interesting figure in all of this. I have a feeling, based on how it seems the IG got a hold on the texts in the first place, and the final text to Strzok that was clearly quite angry, I think it probable that both McCabe and Strzok tried to use Page as a scapegoat to cover their own misdeeds, and it backfired spectacularly. Think about all of this as it stands today without the public having seen the Page/Strzok texts- an entirely different world.

mark wauck said...

Yancey, I think you could construct a nice little scenario re your theory. McCabe/Strzok say, hey, Page was our legal expert, she talked to the other lawyers (NSLU, Baker, DoJ) and she told us it was all OK. We followed her advice. But Page comes back and says, BS! Andy is a lawyer, too, and anyway my advice was that no way Trump wins. Instead they kept yammering about insurance policies and ignored my advice. Something like that. What is clear is that McCabe used her to go around Priestap in the chain of command to deal directly with Strzok. Priestap seems not to have been totally trusted.