DOJ Inspector General: DOJ Did Not Consult the IG Before Releasing FBI Text Messages to Media

Dec 15, 2017 Issues: Law Enforcement, Trump

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), to inform them that DOJ did not consult the Inspector General before releasing text messages between two FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the press.

Ranking Member Nadler and Reps. Jeffries and Raskin released the following joint statement in response to the IG’s letter:

“We are disappointed and alarmed that some within the Justice Department would mislead us about whether or not officials had obtained the approval of the Inspector General before releasing the text messages of Department employees to Congress and the press.  This baffling breach of procedure raises the question of whether these messages should have been released at this time and in this manner in the middle of an ongoing IG investigation. It also invites questions about whether any responsible DOJ officials are going out of their way, not only to disparage the reputations of their colleagues, but to actively try to undermine confidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election in an attempt to appease or directly serve the interests of President Trump. This is a very serious matter, and we expect a full and complete explanation for these misstatements and the underlying suspicious actions by the Department of Justice, including by the Public Affairs Officer, in the coming days.”

Earlier today, the Members sent a letter to DOJ Public Affairs Director Sarah Flores to demand clarity after she made inconsistent statements regarding the release of text messages between two FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the press.

In a statement to CNN yesterday evening, Flores said, “When the initial inquiries came from the committees and members of Congress, the deputy attorney general consulted with the inspector general, and the inspector general determined that he had no objection to the Department’s providing the material to the Congressional committees . . . .  After that consultation, senior career ethics advisers determined that there were no legal or ethical concerns, including under the Privacy Act, that prohibited the release of the information to the public either by members of Congress or by the Department.”

In a statement to POLITICO issued later, Flores said, “As we understand now, some members of the media had already received copies of the texts before that—but those disclosures were not authorized by the department.”

Today’s letter followed two letters sent yesterday by Nadler, Jeffries and Raskin to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and DOJ Public Affairs, requesting details regarding the release of text messages between FBI officials to the media.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 12th, the U.S. Department of Justice released 375 text messages between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the House Judiciary Committee. The following day, DOJ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Committee.

The Office of the Inspector General informed the Special Counsel of the existence of these texts messages on July 27, 2017.  Although federal regulations permit an FBI agent to “[e]xpress his or her opinion as an individual privately and publicly on political subjects and candidates,” Special Counsel Mueller immediately removed Strzok from the investigation. 

View the original letter to the DOJ Inspector General here.

View the original letter to the DOJ Public Affairs Director here.

View today’s follow up letter to the DOJ Public Affairs Director here.

View the Inspector General’s response letter here.