The DOJ may have them all. Or they may not. But either way, they haven’t turned them all over to Congress. Yet.
The Justice Department has given Congress less than 15 percent of the texts between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – and that is all Congress is likely to get, at least until department experts finish an effort to recover an unknown number of previously lost texts that were sent and received during a key five-month period during the Trump-Russia investigation.
There is much confusion over some basic facts of the Strzok-Page texts. How many are there? How many relate to the two most politically-charged investigations in years, the Trump-Russia probe and the Hillary Clinton email investigation? How many have been turned over to Congress? And how many are left to be turned over to Congress?
The answers are complicated, but here is what I have been able to figure out from conversations with the Justice Department and Capitol Hill investigators.
The Justice Department has identified about 50,000 Strzok-Page texts. But that is apart from the texts between Dec. 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017 that were declared missing a week ago but are now being recovered. So, the total is apparently 50,000 plus the currently unknown number of formerly missing texts.
But that number refers only to the Strzok-Page texts that were sent and received on FBI-issued Samsung phones. There are a number of instances in the texts in which the two officials say that they should switch the conversation to iMessage, suggesting they continued to talk about FBI matters on personal Apple phones. For investigators, those are particularly intriguing texts – what was so sensitive that they couldn’t discuss on their work phones? – but the number of those texts is unknown. And of course, they have not been turned over to Congress.
How many texts have been turned over? Both Justice Department and Capitol Hill sources say the total number is in the 7,000 range, which includes all the texts handed over on two separate occasions.
The question is, is “an effort to recover” actually what it appears or is the DOJ going to follow the example of the FBI and the NSA and declare a third successive “oops, we seem to have deleted everything”?