Manafort doesn't deserve leniency, Mueller filing argues
GOP lawmakers raise concerns over 'secret society' in FBI agents' texts
House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Monday raised concerns that the two FBI agents who privately exchanged text messages disparaging President Trump mentioned a "secret society" shortly after the Republican candidate won the election.
Gowdy joins a chorus of Republicans who are upset over texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with some claiming they serve as proof of the bureau's bias against Trump in the probes 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 openly derisive terms about Trump, served on both investigations before being removed from the Russia probe by special counsel Robert Mueller.
"The day after the election ... there is a text exchange between these two FBI agents, these supposed to be fact-centric FBI agents saying, 'Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society,'" Gowdy said on Fox News's "The Story with Martha MacCallum."
"So I'm going to want to know what secret society you are talking about, because you're supposed to be investigating objectively the person who just won the Electoral College," he continued.
Gowdy also pointing to his concern about their mention of an "insurance policy" in their back-and-forth during the spring of 2016, a remark that has captured Republicans' attention.
Mueller removed the agents from his team after news of their critical messages surfaced, but Republicans continue to argue the agents reveal a prejudice against Trump within the FBI.
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), a House Judiciary Committee member, also indicated that the existence of a secret society within the government raises red flags that top officials were working against Trump.
"We learned today about information that in the immediate aftermath of his election, there may have been a 'secret society' of folks within the Department of Justice and the FBI, to include Page and Strzok, working against him. I'm not saying that actually happened, but when folks speak in those terms, they need to come forward to explain the context," Ratcliffe said on Fox with Gowdy by his side.
The Texas lawmaker said he is not bothered that Strzok and Page had an "intense anti-Trump bias," as long as they put their personal feelings aside and performed properly and fairly in their job.
The FBI told lawmakers in a letter over the weekend that the bureau did not have a record of messages exchanged over a roughly five-month period between Strzok and Page, citing problems with the bureau's issued mobile phones.
The announcement further fueled the scrutiny of Republicans, who are calling for efforts to track down the missing messages.
Ratcliffe indicated that their disappearance appears suspicious.
"It is possible these text messages that are missing, perhaps they really were lost. Perhaps it is another strange coincidence," Ratcliffe said, adding that it "is harder and harder for us to explain one strange coincidence after another."
Republicans have also sought to draw attention to the text messages as a sign that the investigation is politically motivated against the president, while Democrats accuse their colleagues of attempting to undermine the Russia probe, which is looking into possible ties between Trump campaign aides and Russia.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announced the Justice Department will investigate the missing text messages, a decision that comes after he faced pressure from the White House and GOP lawmakers to look into the matter.
"We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source," Sessions said in a statement.
The president and his allies have described Mueller's Russia investigation as a "witch hunt."