Watchdog: DOJ didn't consult us before releasing FBI agent's texts

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) inspector general was not consulted before the agency released an FBI agent's text messages to the media, the office said Friday.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a letter to three House Democrats that DOJ officials did not consult with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) "in order to determine whether releasing the text messages met applicable ethical and legal standards before providing them to Congress."

Horowitz also said that the department did not consult his office before sharing the messages with the press.

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His letter appeared to contradict earlier testimony from Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Rosenstein: 'I never pursued' trying to record Trump Trump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI MORE, as well as a statement from Sarah Flores, the director of the Justice Department's office of public affairs, who told CNN that Rosenstein had consulted with the inspector general before releasing the messages.

"When the initial inquiries came from committees and members of Congress, the deputy attorney general consulted with the inspector general, and the inspector general determined that he had no objection to the Department's providing the material to the Congressional committees that had requested it," Flores said.

"After that consultation, senior career ethics advisers determined that there were no legal or ethical concerns, including under the Privacy Act, that prohibited the release of the information to the public either by members of Congress or by the Department," she said.

Flores said in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday that Horowitz’s letter was “entirely consistent” with her past statements, reiterating that the inspector general had no objections to the Justice Department’s decision to release the messages to Congress.

“The letter released by the IG tonight is entirely consistent w my earlier tweets & DAG’s testimony. IG had no objection to release to Congress,” she wrote. “We then consulted senior career legal/ethics experts to determine there were no issues w releasing texts to either Congress or press.”

The inspector general's office later acknowledged in a statement on Friday night that it told the Justice Department that it "did not object" to the department releasing certain records to Congress, including the texts. But it maintained that it had not been consulted on the release to the press.

"In conveying this position to the Department, we noted that, as with any such release, the Department was responsible for making its own determination about whether any restrictions, such as those affecting grand jury information, limited what records it may provide to Congress," the OIG said.

It added, "At no time prior to the release of the text messages did the Department consult with the OIG about providing records to the media."

Horowitz's initial letter came in response to a letter from the three Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee — ranking member Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech MORE (Md.) and Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesMeek Mill: I now feel a responsibility to 'help change the world' Connect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Dem lawmaker labels Trump the ‘Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave’ MORE (N.Y.) — who questioned the release of text messages sent between two FBI employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

In some of the text messages, sent during the 2016 presidential campaign, the agents expressed support for Democratic candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE and opposition to then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE. They also disparaged other political figures like Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (I-Vt.), former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderFBI, Justice Dept plan to redact Russia documents despite Trump order for full declassification: report Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ Dem lawmaker jabs Trump call for transparency by asking for his tax returns MORE and Chelsea Clinton.

The messages were shared with reporters and lawmakers before Rosenstein testified to Congress on Wednesday.

Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team earlier this summer after Justice Department officials became aware of the text messages. Mueller is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election, as well as possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Page left Mueller's office earlier in the year.

House Republicans hammered the FBI over the messages during the Wednesday hearing, questioning the impartiality of the bureau and of Mueller's investigative team.

“We are now beginning to understand the magnitude of this insider bias on Mr. Mueller’s team,” said Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Goodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence MORE (R-Va.).

The text messages were uncovered as part of an OIG review into the FBI's actions during the 2016 election. 

Updated: 10:19 p.m.