By Andrew C. McCarthy
“Peter Strzok and Lisa Page’s texts shine a highly redacted light on how the Trump-Russia investigation began.
It was July 31, 2016. Just days earlier, the Obama administration had quietly opened an FBI counterintelligence investigation of Russian cyber-espionage — hacking attacks — to disrupt the 2016 election. And not random, general disruption; the operating theory was that the Russians were targeting the Democratic party, for the purpose of helping Donald Trump win the presidency.
FBI special agent Peter Strzok was downright giddy that day.
The Bureau had finally put to bed “Mid Year Exam.” MYE was code for the dreaded investigation of Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a private email system to conduct State Department business, which resulted in the retention and transmission of thousands of classified emails, as well as the destruction of tens of thousands of government business records. Strzok and other FBI vets dreaded the case because it was a go-through-the-motions exercise: Everyone working on it knew that no one was going to be charged with a crime; that Mrs. Clinton was going to be the next president of the United States; and that the FBI’s goal was not to be tarnished in the process of “investigating” her — to demonstrate, without calling attention to the suffocating constraints imposed by the Obama Justice Department, that the Bureau had done a thorough job, and that there was a legal rationale for letting Clinton off the hook that might pass the laugh test.
That mission was accomplished, Strzok and his colleagues believed, with Director James Comey’s press conference on July 5, outlining the evidence and recommending against charges that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring. Now, having run the just-for-show interview of Hillary Clinton on July 2 — long after Comey’s press statement that there would be no charges was in the can — Strzok was on the verge of a big promotion: to deputy assistant director of counterintelligence.
Even better: Now, he was working a real case — the Trump-Russia case. He was about to fly to London to meet with intelligence contacts and conduct secret interviews.
Not so secret, though, that he could contain himself.
As was his wont several times a day, Strzok texted his paramour, Lisa Page, the FBI lawyer in the lofty position of counsel to Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — which made Page one of the relative handful of Bureau officials who were in on the new probe. Late Sunday night, as he readied for his morning flight, Strzok wrote to Page, comparing the investigations of Clinton and Trump.
“And damn this feels momentous. Because this matters. The other one did, too, but that was to ensure that we didn’t F something up. This matters because this MATTERS.