A federal judge on Friday questioned the Justice Department’s decision to release text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok and signaled that she wants to see more evidence about whether political influence played a role.
Strzok and Page had been critical of President Donald Trump in their texts while they were FBI employees working on the Russia investigation. They say the Justice Department’s December 2017 decision to release their texts to the media and Congress was improper and a privacy violation and Strzok was wrongfully fired.
It’s the second time this week a judge has allowed an FBI official’s lawsuit against the Justice Department to continue unfolding in the courts.
On Thursday, a judge ruled former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired a day before his scheduled retirement for “lack of candor,” could also move toward gathering evidence about his firing, which he too says was politically motivated and unfair.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, handling the Strzok and Page cases on Friday, called out several sworn statements from top Justice Department officials, including former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that appear to contradict one another about the DOJ’s decisions to make Strzok and Page’s text messages public.
McCabe, Strzok and Page may now attempt to question several top Justice Department and FBI officials under oath, including the department’s former spokeswoman and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That effort will take time and may face multiple legal hurdles.
The judges’ decisions this week provide some counterbalance to Trump and his supporters’ screeds about the FBI and specifically McCabe, Strzok and Page.
Also this week, the Justice Department drew new attention to the handling of the Russia investigation by re-releasing some of Strzok and Page’s text messages to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s legal team. That generated a new round of right-wing attention about them.
Then, on Thursday night, the DOJ released an interview with an FBI agent who disagreed with the Flynn and Russia investigations. The interview revealed essentially no new facts, instead pushing forward the opinion of one agent in support of dismissing Flynn’s criminal charge.
But the releases prompted a series of tweets from Trump on Friday morning criticizing McCabe, Strzok and the FBI while supporting Flynn.