Why did the Justice Department selectively release anti-Trump texts that fueled outrage at Mueller?

The FBI agents criticized for sending texts criticizing Trump also disparaged Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 15, 2017 8:26AM (EST)

Robert Mueller (Getty/Saul Loeb)
Robert Mueller (Getty/Saul Loeb)

More questions are being raised about the Justice Department's decision to release text messages critical of President Donald Trump when the two FBI employees involved in them were still under investigation — especially considering that the conversations also criticized Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton.

The Justice Department has also come under criticism for its decision to release the text messages exchanged between senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page while the two individuals involved were still under investigation, according to Politico. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, joined two other Democrats on the panel to request a full review of the Justice Department's decision-making that led to the release of the 375 text messages between Strzok and Page on Tuesday. They described the decision as an "unusual move."

On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the decision as prompted by requests from Congress.

"Generally speaking, our goal is to be as forthcoming with the media as we can, when it is lawful and appropriate to do so. So I would not approve anybody disclosing something that was not appropriate to disclose," Rosenstein said during the Wednesday hearing.

Strzok and Page were having an affair when they engaged in extensive text message conversations about current American politics, according to The Wall Street Journal. While considerable attention has been paid to their criticisms of Trump — whom they variously referred to as "an idiot," "douche," and "TERRIFYING" — they also had unflattering observations about a number of Democrats.

Regarding Clinton, Strzok once texted, "I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected." He also referred to Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, as "self-entitled," and dismissed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I - Vt., as an "idiot." Page also called Sanders supporters "idiots." They also both had low opinions of President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, with Strzok writing it was "wildly offensive" for Holder's portrait to be next to that of iconic Attorney General Elliott Richardson and insisting that a television be turned off when Holder spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

Page perhaps best summed up their worldview when she texted Strzok during lunch with an unidentified person: "We both hate everyone and everything."

The texts between Strzok and Page have been cited by Republican critics of the Robert Mueller probe into alleged Trump-Russia collusion as proof that the investigation is biased. Strzok was the particular focus of criticism because he had been the lead investigator into the investigation into Clinton's handling of classified information on her private email server and spearheaded the work of agents assigned to Mueller's probe. When the contents of his text messages were revealed to Mueller, he was reassigned to the human resources department, as was Page.

Del Quentin Wilber, who covers the Justice Department, argued in a Twitter essay on Friday that there is important context to be taken into consideration when analyzing the texts.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Fbi Hillary Clinton Lisa Page Peter Strzok