DOJ office says it has found missing text messages of FBI officials

   

Months of missing text messages between two FBI officials have been located, according a letter obtained by The Hill.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonJuan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins GOP senator: Harley-Davidson is right to move some production overseas GOP senator: Trump’s policies doing 'permanent damage' MORE (R-Wis.) in a letter that the messages spanning from December 2016 to May 2017, previously thought missing due to a technological glitch affecting FBI phones, have been found.

“The [Office of the Inspector General] has been investigating this matter, and, this week, succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices,” the letter read.

The messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page have come under scrutiny primarily by GOP lawmakers who say that they are proof of political bias against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE in the Russia investigations and in the FBI overall. 

The glitch that resulted in their missing messages reportedly affected thousands of FBI phones. In all, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHomeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Ryan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' MORE said at least 50,000 messages were exchanged between Strzok and Page.

Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russian election meddling after anti-Trump messages between him and Page were revealed. Strzok also worked on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Dem pollster: GOP women have a more difficult time winning primary races than Dems Mellman: (Mis)interpreting elections MORE’s use of a private email server.

Trump weighed in on the missing texts in a tweet earlier this week, calling it “one of the biggest stories in a long time.” 

Some GOP lawmakers in recent days have homed in on an exchange in recently recovered texts in which Strzok and Page make reference to a “secret society.” Johnson, one of the senators who has voiced concerns about this exchange, acknowledged Thursday morning the possibility that the “secret society” reference was made in jest.

“Are you even going to give out your calendars?” Page asked Strzok in one of the messages. “Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.”

Horowitz wrote in the letter to Johnson and Grassley that his office will provide copies of the recovered texts to the Justice Department, after which leadership can decide how to proceed with distributing the information to Senate committees. Three congressional committees are investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Updated at 1:22 p.m.