Top committee Dems: GOP chairs trying to undermine Russia probe with FBI texts

Top committee Dems: GOP chairs trying to undermine Russia probe with FBI texts
© Greg Nash

Three House committee Democrats are pushing back on their panels’ GOP chairmen's claims of possible political bias among top FBI and Justice Department officials, accusing the Republicans of ignoring facts in an attempt to undermine the Justice Department's Russia probe.

The top Democrats of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and Intelligence committees accused their GOP counterparts of targeting the FBI in an effort to undermine the credibility of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE's ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Republican chairmen on Monday said they found text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page which disparaged President Trump "extremely troubling" after reviewing their contents.

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"These Republican attacks show their desperation at the fact that Mueller already has obtained two guilty pleas, two indictments, and at least two cooperating witnesses,” read a joint statement from Judiciary's Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Oversight's Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsNancy Pelosi fends off impeachment wave — for now House Democrats, Trump lawyers ask appeals court to expedite subpoena case Lawmakers call for 'time out' on facial recognition tech MORE (D-Md.), and Intelligence's Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.). 

"Republicans are now attacking the FBI in order to undermine Special Counsel Mueller and protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE, but their claims are directly at odds with the facts," they added.

Some GOP lawmakers say the exchanges reveal that top agents had a prejudice against Trump within the FBI, a factor that could've influenced the probe looking into Russian election meddling as well as into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of State.

Strzok, who spoke in critical terms about Trump, served on both investigations before being removed from the Russia probe by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Democrats said the GOP lawmakers' suggestions on the exchanges "are directly at odds with the facts."

"The contents of these text messages between top FBI officials are extremely troubling in terms of when certain key decisions were made by the Department of Justice and the FBI, by whom these decisions were made, and the evident bias exhibited by those in charge of the investigation," read a Monday joint statement from Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

The Democratic lawmakers, however, argue that the Republicans are failing to mention that the FBI agents were involved in key decisions to publicly announce or privately withhold information about bureau investigations — decisions that may have hurt the Clinton campaign as much as they could have benefited the Trump campaign.

"Republicans condemn FBI officials for supposedly taking action during the presidential campaign to assist Clinton and harm Trump, but this ignores the plain reality that these same FBI officials were involved in notifying Congress just days before the election that the FBI was reopening the Clinton investigation — an unprecedented action that severely damaged Clinton’s bid for President," they wrote.

"At the same time, the FBI had an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, as well as reports that the Russians had compromising information on the candidate, but kept all of this information confidential in the months before the election — actions that greatly benefited the Trump campaign," they continued.

The joint statement from the GOP committee leaders came shortly before Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Amash: Some of Trump's actions 'were inherently corrupt' 'Persuadable' voters are key to the 2020 election — and the non-screaming news industry MORE announced he would investigate why the bureau does not have a record of the Strzok-Page text conversation for a roughly five-month period.