In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressed his irritation that the Justice Department had made significant redactions to a collection of text messages sent to his office.
The committee had requested text messages that were exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, given that their anti-Trump bias may have influenced the investigation into the Russia affair as well as the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Beyond that possibility, the texts we’ve seen already have shed new light on what was really going on inside the Obama administration, including the mindset of former FBI Director James Comey and his second-in-command, Andrew McCabe.
But while the DOJ complied with the request (after claiming for some time that many of the messages had been lost), they did so with a series of thick redactions that have rendered many of the texts unreadable.
Grassley wants the clean versions.
“The manner in which some redactions have been used casts doubt on whether the remaining redactions are necessary and defensible,” Grassley wrote. “When viewing the still redacted portions in context with the unredacted material, it appeared that the redacted portions may contain relevant information relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the matter in which the Department of Justice and FBI handled the Clinton and Russia investigations.”
Grassley is particularly interested in one text message that Strzok sent to Page on August 5, 2016, “Went well, best we could have expected,” he wrote. “Other than [REDACTED] quote, ‘the White House is running this.’ My answer. ‘Well, maybe for you they are.’”
It’s not clear from the text what exactly went well, but it seems to have been a meeting of some sort. And thanks to the redaction, we don’t know who said the quote that seemed to rankle Strzok. But it’s very clear that someone in the administration believed the White House was in charge of an investigation. And since the Clinton investigation had wrapped up more than a month prior to the text’s date, we can only assume they’re talking about the Trump/Russia inquiry. If so, that’s something Congress needs to know about.
In his letter, Grassley asked Rosenstein to provide “unredacted copies of all text messages no later than June 6,” demanding that the DOJ come up with a good, legal reason for noncompliance if they choose not to fulfill the request.