DOJ watchdog: No clear 'pattern' in missing Strzok, Page texts

A federal watchdog has found no “discernible patterns” regarding the content of text messages exchanged between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that were not collected and maintained by the bureau's systems, according to a new report.

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Inspector General released a partially redacted report Thursday detailing how the office was able to recover previously lost text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page.

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The inspector general report states that the messages later found to be maintained in different sources "included some political content, some work-related content, and some personal content."

Republicans were initially outraged when it was revealed that texts between the two were missing, fueling attacks from the White House toward the FBI.

Texts exchanged by Strzok and Page have sparked a Republican effort to investigate potential bias within the DOJ against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms BuzzFeed stands by Cohen report: Mueller should 'make clear what he's disputing' MORE after some of the messages indicated an opposition to Trump.

Strzok and Page, who were romantically involved at the time of the texts, have both appeared before congressional investigators as part of the probe, and Trump has also repeatedly attacked them to allege bias in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation.

Strzok, who was a senior counterintelligence agent, was removed from Mueller’s team after the texts were revealed and was fired from the FBI earlier this year.

Page, who temporarily worked for the special counsel in her role as an FBI attorney, also departed the bureau in May.

The FBI has previously said that it was unable to retrieve all of the texts between Page and Strzok due to bugs within their system that prevented some messages from being collected.

The Justice Department's inspector general noted in its report Thursday that FBI agents have been given newer technology — Samsung Galaxy S7 and S9 phones — in an effort to address some of those issues.

The FBI said in a response to the inspector general report that, after conducting research into the current collection methods, it “believes that no single root cause exists, but rather that several contributing factors, independently or in combination with other factors, may affect collection capability.”

“The FBI accepts the fact that not all texts between Ms. Page and Mr. Strozk were collected by the FBl's text collection tool but appreciates and agrees with the OIG's conclusion and explanation that the content of text messages exchanged between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page did not appear to be a factor in their collection, or lack thereof,” the FBI response reads. “Further, the OIG did not find that the gaps in collection were intentional on the part of the FBI or any FBI personnel.”

The report also stated that the inspector general’s office could not recover text messages from the iPhones issued to Strzok and Page while they worked on the Mueller investigation.

The report says that Strzok turned over the iPhone to the DOJ once he was pulled from the special counsel’s team.

However, Strzok’s phone was reset to factory settings and reissued to another agent, meaning that it “did not contain data related to Strzok’s use of the device.”

A records officer for the special counsel’s office told the inspector general that Strzok’s phone was reviewed for texts after it was returned, and it was “determined it contained no substantive text messages.”

The report states that Page’s iPhone used for the Mueller probe was not located until September 2018. While it had not been reissued to another official, it had been reset to factory settings — a routine practice within the department — and “did not contain any data related to Page’s use of the device.”

Unlike Strzok’s phone, Page’s device was not reviewed by the special counsel’s records officer for possible records that would need to be kept.

It’s unclear if the two had even exchanged texts on those devices; the report states that both had continued to use Samsung phones issued to them as FBI employees while they worked for the special counsel’s office.

The inspector general report released Thursday stated that the office was able to retrieve 20,071 text messages from Strzok's and Page’s Samsung devices altogether. Not all of those texts were sent between the pair, with some having been exchanged with other people.