The latest batch of text messages provided to Congress on Thursday between two top FBI employees who have come under scrutiny for criticizing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump capture their immediate reactions to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The texts between FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which were reviewed by CNN, show their dismay at the firing of Comey and discussing the prospect of working for Mueller. The texts are also likely to raise new questions for Republicans and allies of Trump who’ve pointed to their previous anti-Trump texts as exhibit A for political bias at the nation’s top law enforcement agency.
“Having a tough time processing tonight, Lis. Feeling a profound sense of loss,” Strzok writes to Page a couple days after Comey was fired.
“I feel that same loss. I want to see what the FBI could become under him! His vision of greatness for our strong but flawed organization. I’m angry. Angry and mourning,” Page responds.
But there are also likely to be new questions over the texts, as many of them are cryptic and use shorthand that isn’t clear.
For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing on May 9, 2017, Strzok texted: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting.”
It’s not clear what Strzok case is referring to. CNN has reached out to attorneys of Strzok and Page for comment.
In previous batches of text messages between the two, cryptic texts have led to some conspiracy theories that have been debunked, such as an FBI “secret society” referenced in one message. Sources familiar with that prior text exchange told CNN that it was a reference to a gag gift of Vladimir Putin-themed calendars that one of the employees purchased for those working on the early stage of the Russia investigation.
The new text messages show the running conversation between Strzok and Page as they prepared for congressional hearings, dealt with internal office politics and reacted to the opening weeks of the Trump administration.
Their reaction to Mueller’s appointment is met with considerations about whether they would work for the special counsel.
“You could go work with Aaron for him … you heard it from me first…. ;),” Strzok writes. “And go to Wilmer when it’s done,” he adds, referencing Mueller’s former law firm.
The morning after Mueller’s appointment, Strzok texted: “I could hear the shredders in the WH and DoJ running from here…” It’s not clear what it’s a reference to.
They also discuss the congressional dynamics surrounding a potential special counsel investigation.
“Meeting with DAG was about coordinating investigation,” Strzok wrote. “Burr happy, Warner conveyed he wanted special counsel, said DAG said he took that under advisement. Thats it.”
After the special counsel is appointed, Strzok writes he disagrees with a decision involving the special counsel that’s redacted in the texts provided to Congress.
“It won’t end with him. It will have a chilling effect on others. It won’t engender any of the happylovetimes goodwill with staff that seem to be oozing from burr and warner,” Strzok writes.
Strzok, who led the investigation of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private email server as the No. 2 official in the FBI’s counterintelligence division, was later involved in opening the investigation into ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives.
He briefly served on Mueller’s team last year, but was removed shortly after the Justice Department inspector general’s office stumbled upon the text messages. Page was also on Mueller’s team for a short time before returning to the FBI, but she completed her detail before the special counsel’s office was made aware of the texts.
The previous sets of texts show Strzok and Page mocking politicians on both sides of the aisle, but their unvarnished disdain for Trump has been repeatedly cited as evidence that the Mueller team is out to get the President.
The newest cache of five months’ worth of messages from December 2016 to May 2017 were originally thought to be missing, causing a brief stir given the date range includes the period after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and Mueller was appointed.
But the Justice Department’s inspector general later recovered the messages using forensic tools. That office is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into the FBI’s actions leading up to the 2016 election and is expected to release a report on its findings sometime in May.
This story has been updated with additional developments.