Forty-nine new pages of text messages between two FBI agents who investigated potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin were turned over to Congress on Thursday. The exchanges—once thought to have been lost in an FBI-wide glitch—further reveal the antipathy both agents felt toward the newly elected president, as well as the dread they felt following his firing of the FBI director.
The tranche of messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, provided to Congress and reviewed by The Daily Beast, were sent between Dec. 16, 2016, and May 23, 2017—the period including President Donald Trump’s inauguration, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into Russian election interference.
The texts paint a portrait of two beleaguered federal employees who were equal parts anguished by and aghast at Trump’s election, torn between “our strong but flawed organization” and a “catastrophuck” president.
“I kept telling myself the organization is much bigger and stronger than any one person, that we’ll endure,” Strzok texted Page four days after Comey’s unceremonious firing. “But that didn’t seem to help.”
The messages were originally thought to be deleted, casualties of a glitch impacting roughly 10 percent of FBI cellular devices. They were later recovered, however, with the use of forensic tools by the Justice Department’s inspector general, who is currently heading up an investigation into the FBI’s investigations into both Clinton’s emails and Russian interference in the election.
Both Strzok, the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and Page, a fellow FBI employee with whom he was romantically involved, were removed from Mueller’s team after the special counsel was informed of these and other messages between the two that criticized Trump. Some Republicans have pointed to the exchanges as evidence that Mueller’s team is irreparably biased against the president, who told The Wall Street Journal in January that Strzok had committed a “treasonous act” by suggesting before the election that the FBI aggressively investigate allegations of collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
“This is the FBI we’re talking about—that is treason,” Trump said at the time. “That is a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”
While the newly revealed text messages further show the personal contempt in which Strzok and Page held Trump, they do not provide any apparent evidence that the duo was part of a “secret society” conspiring to undermine the president—as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) first suggested upon the release of the first batch of text messages in February.
In their exchanges—in which Page called Trump an “idiot” and “a douche,” among other insults—Strzok and Page had also criticized liberals, including Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Eric Holder, and Bernie Sanders. Former colleagues have denied that Strzok was biased in his official role on the Mueller team, and Strzok had also told Page at one point that “my gut sense and concern is there’s no big there there.”
That “gut sense” did not prevent the pair from venting about the president, particularly in the early days of his administration, when they exchanged a music playlist of songs from nations whose citizens had been banned from entering the United States and mocked the president’s early-morning Twitter rants.
“You see the tweet about the Seattle judge?” Strzok texted on Feb. 5, one day after Trump called into question the legitimacy of a federal judge who temporarily blocked his travel ban by calling him a “so-called judge.”
By mid-May, the morning of a Trump tweetstorm in which he called the investigation into potential collusion “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” neither agent could muster more than shock.
“Wow. Wow wow wow,” Page texted that morning. “Sad for me, even Bob Mueller can’t stop the 4:20 wakeups.”
“How far we’ve gone...” Page texted on Feb. 27, linking to a New York Times article noting former President George W. Bush’s criticism of Trump’s nascent presidency.
“Yeah we’re pretty much a catastrophuck right now,” Strzok responded, quoting a source in another Times article who said of Trump that the Russians “think he is unstable, that he can be manipulated.”
Investigations into the Trump campaign’s potential links to Russian intelligence were a frequent topic of conversation between the two agents, even in the early days of the Trump administration. Less than a week after Trump’s inauguration, Page texted Strzok an ominous “It begins…” linking to a Times article titled “Russian Charged with Treason Worked in Office Linked to Election Hacking.”
The pair’s hostility to Trump—and apparent frustration with their work at the FBI—peaked in the aftermath of Comey’s firing.
“We need to lock in [redacted],” Page texted Strzok at 5:29 a.m. on May 10, the morning after Comey’s firing was announced. “In a formal chargeable way. Soon.”
“I agree,” Strzok replied. “I’ve been pushing.”
Later that day, a press briefing in which then-deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Comey had committed “atrocities” during his time at the FBI prompted another outburst of incredulity.
“Are you watching this sh*t?!??” Strzok texted. “Huckabee said [Comey] had ‘lost confidence of rank and file of fbi’.”
Strzok and Page’s deeply held frustrations—evident throughout the 49 pages of texts reviewed by The Daily Beast—crested the week of Comey’s firing.
“Lisa, don’t think for a second that you’re not extraordinarily excellent at what you do,” Strzok texted Page in a pep talk the day before Comey’s firing. “Don’t doubt yourself. You’re awesome. And don’t quit. I get the impulse, I’m there with you, but don’t quit. Need you in the foxhole.”
“F the foxhole,” Page replied. “I’m done with the greater good. It’s not worth this.”
After Comey’s departure, the mood between Strzok and Page became even more grim.
“Having a tough time processing tomight [sic], Lis,” Strzok texted Page at nearly midnight that Saturday. “Feeling a profound sense of loss.”
“I feel that same loss,” Page replied. “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.”
“We will endure,” Page continued, “we just won’t be as good.”