Why must everything Rosenstein be filled with drama?
Leaking lovers and an FBI smear job of Carter Page?
Just last week I opined on how troubling it was that the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) apparently targeted and used media to further, in the court of public opinion, an as-yet-unproven Russia-collusion case against Donald Trump.
Now, belatedly released information from the files of those favorite FBI lovebirds - Peter Strzok and Lisa Page - has created even more concern that the top echelons of America's premier law enforcement were involved in name-smearing media leaks.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, disclosed in a letter Monday to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that, in April 2017, Strzok and Page discussed a specific media-leak strategy about Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Carter Page, of course, was subjected to a year-long FBI surveillance warrant but never has been charged with any wrongdoing - yet, somehow, nearly all the FBI's suspicions about his ties to Russia made it into media reports.
Meadows' letter suggests a possible reason why and how that happened.
On April 10, 2017, Strzok texted Lisa Page the following message: "I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go."
The next day, according to Meadows, the Washington Post broke a story on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application against Carter Page.
And then, on April 12, 2017, Strzok texted regarding two articles coming out about Carter Page - whom he refers to as Lisa Page's "namesake" - and that one is more damaging than the other.
Strzok, according to Meadows, then congratulated his FBI colleague Lisa Page, with whom he allegedly was having an affair. "Well done, Page," he texted.
Meadows, who has led the charge against the FBI's conduct in the Russia probe, told Rosenstein the "text exchange should lead a reasonable person to question whether there was a sincere desire to investigate wrongdoing or to place derogatory information in the media to justify a continued probe."
FISA warrants are among the most secretive tools in the FBI's arsenal, and information contained in them is supposed to be guarded closely from public release, in part because innocent people sometimes can be caught up in surveillance in complex espionage and terrorism cases.
In his letter, Meadows asks the deputy attorney general to provide more documents to explain what the FBI and the DOJ were up to in devising a "media leak strategy" and whether there was a "systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing questions."
I asked the FBI and DOJ for comment. So far, crickets.
But I asked Carter Page what he thought of the text messages. He had his own very personal observation, starting with "it seems pretty obvious" the FBI texts referred to leaking about him. But he also was happy that the DOJ is finally giving the light of day to what happened over the past two years.
"After so much damage has been done to this new administration, I'm happy steps are being take to correct this. It's not about me; it's about us and our country," Page told me.
"In the southern district of New York and the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the Department of Justice and their affiliates made a kangaroo court out of some of the most important courts of our country," he added. "There will be civil liability but all I really want is for DOJ just to do the right thing."
In the end, the new text messages aren't dispositive but raise obvious and disturbing questions. And that means a real investigation should be conducted to determine if anyone in government leaked something as sensitive as a FISA warrant or the intercepts between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
Honest, independent answers to those questions are especially warranted inside an FBI where:
- the former FBI director, James Comey, authorized a leak in hopes of securing a special prosecutor in the Russia case;
- the former deputy director already has been fired for lying about another leak;
- agents used leaked stories as corroborating evidence in court, even though they knew the leaks were simply circular intelligence flowing from their tainted source, former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele.
The FISA court that approves secret surveillance warrants operates on an honor system, so much so that the judges never bothered to hold a hearing about the four warrants they issued on Carter Page.
That honor system requires the FBI to disclose everything they know - the good, the bad and the ugly.
There's growing evidence the bad and the ugly (i.e., the exculpatory evidence) was carefully omitted from the FBI's submissions. And that should concern anyone who believes in a fair and honest court system.
John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists' misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill's executive vice president for video.