President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused special counsel Robert Mueller of breaking the law, primarily by alleging without evidence that Mueller illegally destroyed text messages sent by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The two former officials worked on the Russia investigation and have been publicly disgraced by their anti-Trump text messages and their extramarital affair.
In a phone interview with Fox Business, Trump said, “Mueller terminated them illegally, he terminated the e-mails, he terminated all of the stuff between Strzok and Page. You know they sung like you’ve never seen. Robert Mueller terminated their text messages together. He terminated them. They’re gone. And that’s illegal. That’s a crime.”
Facts First: Trump is making up an egregious accusation against Mueller, without providing evidence, and is factually inaccurate on several key points about the controversial text messages. Plus, the texts that Trump claims were “terminated” have been recovered and made public.
During their affair, Strzok and Page used government phones to communicate, and many of their texts contained anti-Trump sentiments and insults against Trump supporters. For his conduct, Strzok was fired from the FBI. Page voluntarily resigned.
The Justice Department publicly released thousands of their texts, but struggled to recover messages from a critical period before and after the 2016 election. It was initially blamed on a technical issue with their phones. Nonetheless, this gap became the linchpin to conspiracy theories peddled by Trump and his Republican allies, who say the FBI launched the Russia investigation to stop Trump from winning, and is now covering it up.
But there’s a massive problem with Trump’s latest allegations. The Justice Department’s internal watchdog reviewed whether the texts were intentionally destroyed or hidden. Their investigation not only recovered the missing messages, but also concluded that the problem stemmed from an FBI-wide software glitch and was not part of an anti-Trump conspiracy. Those messages were since released to the public for all to peruse.
There is also zero evidence that Mueller, or anyone acting on his orders, was involved in deleting any messages. Trump repeated several times in the interview on Wednesday that Mueller was personally responsible and that those actions broke the law. The Justice Department inspector general reviewed the matter of the missing texts and did not identify any criminality in his 16-page report.
Trump has spread many falsehoods and lies about Mueller throughout the investigation, and the attacked picked up after Mueller pointedly refused to exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, and hinted that Congress has the power to continue where he left off. Trump’s latest salvos came after congressional Democrats announced that Mueller will testify on July 17, giving the special counsel an opportunity to explain his findings and answer questions for the first time on a public stage.