New text messages that were reportedly hidden from Congress reveal that Peter Strzok had a close personal friendship with the judge who accepted Mike Flynn’s guilty plea back in December. The day after the guilty plea was accepted, we found out that Strzok was bounced by Mueller from the special counsel team for inappropriate text messages with Lisa Page. Less than a week after that, the judge who accepted the plea was recused from the case.
Here’s the lowdown from the Federalist:
Newly discovered text messages obtained by The Federalist reveal two key federal law enforcement officials conspired to meet with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge who presided over the federal case against Michael Flynn. The judge, Rudolph Contreras, was recused from handling the case just days after accepting the guilty plea of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser who was charged with making false statements to federal investigators.
The text messages about Contreras between controversial Department of Justice lawyer Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the top Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence official who was kicked off Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, were deliberately hidden from Congress, multiple congressional investigators told The Federalist. In the messages, Page and Strzok, who are rumored to have been engaged in an illicit romantic affair, discussed Strzok’s personal friendship with Contreras and how to leverage that relationship in ongoing counterintelligence matters.
“Rudy is on the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]!” Page excitedly texted Strzok on July 25, 2016. “Did you know that? Just appointed two months ago.”
“I did,” Strzok responded. “I need to get together with him.”
“[He] said he’d gotten on a month or two ago at a graduation party we were both at.”
Contreras was appointed to the top surveillance court on May 19, 2016, federal records show.
Strzok and Page went on to scheme as to how they could meet with the judge without putting him in a place where he’d need to be recused:
The pair even schemed about how to set up a cocktail or dinner party just so Contreras, Strzok, and Page could speak without arousing suspicion that they were colluding. Strzok expressed concern that a one-on-one meeting between the two men might require Contreras’ recusal from matters in which Strzok was involved.
“[REDACTED] suggested a social setting with others would probably be better than a one on one meeting,” Strzok told Page. “I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to invite you to that cocktail party.”
“Have to come up with some other work people cover for action,” Strzok added.
“Why more?” Page responded. “Six is a perfectly fine dinner party.”
It is not known whether the proposed party happened as planned.
Mike Flynn’s guilty plea was accepted, then Strzok gets bounced and the judge is recused:
Flynn’s guilty plea was accepted in federal court by Contreras on December 1, 2017. The New York Times reported the next day that Strzok, who left the FBI to work for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, had been removed from the case by Mueller due to inappropriate text messages between Strzok and another federal official, now believed to be DOJ attorney Lisa Page. On December 5, 2017, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray demanding text messages from Strzok as well as any notes he took regarding his interviews with Flynn. Contreras was recused from the Flynn case on December 7, 2017, and the case was reassigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, according to federal court documents.
Neither Contreras nor federal judiciary officials have publicly indicated the reason for Contreras’ removal from the case. Contreras’ office declined to comment on inquiries asking about his relationship with Strzok, or why he was not recused from the Flynn case until after he had accepted Flynn’s guilty plea.
The pre-existing relationship between Strzok and Contreras and Contreras’ mysterious recusal from the Flynn case, forced or otherwise, raise serious questions about whether Flynn’s case, among others, was properly conducted.
These text messages were so damaging to the credibility of the DOJ that they were completely hidden from Congress:
The text messages that show Page and Strzok conspiring to meet with Contreras were originally hidden from Congress. In records provided by DOJ to Congress, the exchanges referencing Contreras, and plans to meet with him under the guise of a cocktail party, were completely redacted by federal law enforcement officials. The exchanges obtained by The Federalist include information that was never turned over to Congress.
A couple of the prevailing questions is summed up by Sean Davis, who contributed to this report:
Here is a screenshot of the text messages from July via Sarah Carter:
You should notice that in the text messages Strzok explains exactly why meeting with the judge would be inappropriate.
Expecting a tweet from Trump on this any moment now. And honestly, who could blame him.
Sarah Carter explains that it was Jim Jordan and Mike Meadows who actually discovered the texts. They’ve also got some questions:
Investigators working with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mark Meadows, both with the House Oversight Committee, discovered the text messages during their ongoing investigation into the FBI’s handling of the alleged Trump-Russia collusion investigation, the Congressional members told this reporter. Under rules established by DOJ officials, congressional investigators could only review the less redacted version of the pairs’ text messages at DOJ headquarters and only the highly redacted version of the texts were allowed to be removed during the ongoing process, they said. Of the 1.2 million documents collected by Horowitz’s team, the House Oversight Committee has only received 3,162 “unique documents,” they added.
“Why did Contreras recuse himself?” said Jordan. “Text messages show he had a relationship with Strzok… Why did the DOJ make it difficult for us to get the information? To me those are the two fundamental questions. We don’t know that answers to either one of those ”
Jordan noted that the text messages provide some context but that some of the communications are not completely clear. He added what is “clear is that the back and forth exchange shows that Strzok and Page were friends. But we don’t know if the discussion regarding recusal has anything to do with Russia or if they were referring to another case. What we do know is that Contreras recused himself after the guilty plea but we still don’t know why?”
Meadows added that a “recusal for a judge is very high bar,” added Meadows. “I think from my stand point we’re asking the department of justice and the FBI to give us the documents we need to do proper oversight. Failing to be able to be able to provide Congress with those documents in an expeditious manner would certainly strengthen the case for a special prosecutor.”
Meadows also stated that the DOJ’s failure to be forthright with the information makes it extremely difficult for Congress to conduct oversight.
“The only thing we would not have access to is grand jury material and some classified documents,” said Meadows. “There is no reason why we cannot get the same documents the Inspector General has.”