Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who during the 2016 campaign texted FBI boyfriend Peter Strzok that “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right?!” testified again on Monday in a closed session. Page did not take questions from reporters but members of the House Judiciary Committee were signaling a new direction in their investigation.
“In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to Agent Strzok, who thinks that we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative,” Rep. John Ratcliff told reporters. Rep. Steve King found Page “certainly more cooperative” than Peter Strzok, who texted Page that “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president.
Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters “Lisa Page today and again on Friday demonstrated a transparency that we didn’t see from Peter Strzok.” The Freedom Caucus chairman, a strong critic of the FBI and DOJ, remained more guarded than some of his colleagues.
Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of Strzok’s harshest critics, told Fox News “She has given us more insights to who was involved in what.” Page had been “more cooperative,” and Gohmert indicated that former CIA boss John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper could have been involved, along with other FBI supervisors Gohmert did not name.
As Rep. Matt Gaetz noted Friday, Lisa Page is no longer with the FBI but bureau lawyers, as with Strzok, were telling her which questions she could answer. The FBI lawyers were present Monday but Page apparently showed some defiance. According to Gohmert, when the lawyers reached for the button, “she would answer before the thing could mute her comment.” Darrell Issa didn’t see it that way.
The California Rep., who last week made Strzok read aloud many of his most incriminating texts, called Page an “evasive witness” who continually sought counsel from FBI attorneys and was “unwilling to answer any specific questions.”
In the wake of Page’s second day of testimony, reports began to emerge about an immunity deal. On Fox Business Network Monday, Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch said “I think Page has the opportunity to be the anti-Strzok.” Page saw what her boyfriend was doing and “She sees an opportunity or an opening to kind of recast herself, and I think she’s taking advantage of it.”
Members of the Judiciary Committee did not formally announce any immunity deal with Page, and Rep. Gohmert was uncertain about her testimony in a public hearing. A former U.S. Attorney recalled what Page and Strzok had done to stand in need of immunity.
The principal question for congressional investigators, Andrew McCarthy noted, “is whether the Democratic administration’s law-enforcement and intelligence arms strained to manufacture an espionage case against the Republican candidate, having buried an eminently prosecutable criminal case against the Democratic presidential nominee.” Or as others put it, they cleared Clinton and framed Trump, with the goal of driving him from office.
As McCarthy explains, when it became clear that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination, that would increase pressure to shut down the “Midyear Exam,” code for the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Page and Strzok would then ramp up “Crossfire Hurricane,” the Russia collusion probe. That is likely the “insurance policy” Page and Strzok discussed in the office of Clinton crony Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI.
None of Page’s newfound candor was on display from Peter Strzok, who testified that “not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.” President Trump watched Strzok’s testimony and called it “a disgrace to our country, and, you would say, that was a total witch hunt.”
Despite the defiance that had Democrat Steve Cohen touting him for a Purple Heart, Strzok did provide new revelations. For example, he told the committee he knew that Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, provided documents to the FBI.
Strzok said former FBI boss Robert Mueller never asked him if he was biased against Trump and never asked about “any text message” Strzok had sent to Lisa Page. Strzok would not say what Russia-Trump collusion he had discovered but conceded his texts showed there “might be nothing going on here.”
After two sessions from Peter Strzok and Lisa Page key mysteries remain. Who, exactly, in the FBI was telling Strzok and Page not to answer certain questions? Was the FBI the same as under the old boss James Comey? And is Jeff Sessions’ DOJ the same as under the old boss Loretta Lynch?
Who first approached Peter Strzok, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and assigned him to run the Midyear Exam? In a September, 2016, text to Lisa Page, Strzok wrote that President Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.” So it is possible to guess.
“We’ve got a huge jigsaw puzzle to put together,” Steve King explained. He seeks the names of everyone who interviewed Hillary Clinton on July 2, 2016, and wants them all to testify. He also wants the names of the FISA judges, the FISA warrant requests, and all the documentation because “the American people deserve access to all this information.”