House Judiciary Democrats want answers on DOJ leaking texts to press
© Greg Nash

Top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the top Justice Department watchdog on Thursday to ask whether the office approved the release of politically-charged text messages shared between FBI employees. 

The letter — sent by ranking Democrats on the Committee Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE (N.Y.) and Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Pelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers MORE (Md.) to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz — asks whether the department consulted with the Inspector General's office before sharing the text messages with the media. 

More than 300 text messages between senior FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok — who was assigned to the bureau's investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election — and in-house attorney Lisa Page that shared anti-Trump political opinions were provided to Congress only after they were provided to the media, the letter says. 

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had previously said that the messages would not have been shared with the media if the Office of Inspector General did not approve. 

In another letter sent to Sarah Flores, the director of the department's Office of Public Affairs, the Democrats ask if the decision met the department's "ethical and legal standards," as described by a department spokeswoman. 

The letter to Flores also asked who approved her decision to invite the press to view the messages, and to provide the names and outlets of any reporters who viewed the letters.

The Office of Inspector General first flagged the messages in its probe into the handling of the FBI's investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo, the polls aren't wrong — but you have to know what to look for How to shut down fake Republican outrage over 'spying' on Trump More than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls MORE; the flagging led to special counsel Robert Mueller's move to fire Strzok from the Russia investigation.