The big news in the Russiagate drama on Monday was a letter from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, expressing grave concern about references in recently released text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to orchestrated media leaks from the Justice Department and FBI.
Meadows puts it this way:
Our review of these new documents raises grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations.
Review of these new documents suggests a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information in the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration.
Meadows goes on to cite specific communications on 10 and 12 April 2017:
April 10, 2017: (former FBI Special Agent) Peter Strzok contacts (former FBI Attorney) Lisa Page to discuss a “media leak strategy.” Specifically, the text says: “I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go.”
April 12, 2017: Peter Strzok congratulates Lisa Page on a job well done while referring to two derogatory articles about Carter Page. In the text, Strzok warns Page two articles are coming out, one which is “worse” than the other about Lisa’s “namesake”.” Strzok added: “Well done, Page.”
(The original text messages have not been released publicly yet, so we are relying at the moment on Meadows’ citation of them from the House committee’s review; i.e., Meadows’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.)
Meadows, like everyone who has seen the Monday 10 September disclosure, points out that the Strzok-Page texts fall just at the time of a previously noted meeting between DOJ and FBI officials and media reporters – on 11 April 2017 – which occurred simultaneously with a Washington Post story on the FBI obtaining the FISA warrant on Carter Page.
However, the 11 April meeting was most notably about Paul Manafort. And the weird thing about it was that it didn’t so much involve DOJ or FBI leaking to the media as a group of AP reporters feeding information to the DOJ and FBI officials, by “asking questions” about information related to Manafort.
Indeed, the specificity of the reporters’ “questions” to the government officials became laughable, when the reporters gave the officials the security access code for a storage locker used by Manafort. The reporters, we are told, wouldn’t disclose the address or unit number at the storage facility, but they did “question” the officials by citing the exact name of the firm that was paying the bills for Manafort’s storage unit.
The FBI subsequently raided the storage unit in May 2017 – apparently able to connect the dots and figure out how to find it.
There are two major points to highlight about the illuminating Strzok-Page text exchange from mid-April 2017.
Who was in charge on this?
One is that the situation doesn’t appear to be all about Strzok and Page being in on a coordinated media-leak effort. The two texts cited by Meadows seem to suggest they were in on it, and to implicate DOJ and FBI officials as having a common plan.
But previously released Strzok-Page texts have a different flavor. They center on the same time period, but seem to indicate that Strzok wasn’t clear on what was happening, and apparently wasn’t very happy about it.
I’m indebted here to sundance at Conservative Treehouse, who called this out in April 2018 with the earlier text-message release. He pointed out at the time that on 6 April 2017, Strzok referred to the “timing of an NYT piece,” and waiting for an update on it from FBI Communication Director Mike Kortan. That did imply the existence of some known plan to leak information to the media.
But then, on 10 April – the same day as the newly released text cited by Meadows about the “media leak strategy with DOJ” – Strzok sent a very peevish text at 8:16 AM complaining that he had no idea what was going on with DOJ and its plans for “media leak regs”; i.e., departmental regulations on dealings with the media.
This is the not the text of someone who’s in the loop and participating in the planning. Strzok refers to a meeting that happened on 9 April, to which Bill (his boss Bill Priestap) had gone, and from which Strzok understood that DOJ was “getting all political and about to blown [sic] up the media leak regs and turn this into a circus.”
The text Meadows refers to probably was sent later in the day, at a point when Strzok had a better idea what was going on.
But Strzok’s evident annoyance at not being in the loop earlier jives with reporting about the 11 April meeting with the AP reporters, which occurred the next day. The reports about that meeting all indicated that the FBI was irritated that the meeting had been set up (see my links above). It was irregular; DOJ set it up, not the FBI – and, in fact, it appears to have been set up at the individual behest of Andrew Weissmann.
The Weissmann connection
This is the second major point. Andrew Weissmann, now Robert Mueller’s deputy on the special counsel team, was the chief of the DOJ Criminal Fraud Section, and reportedly was the one who orchestrated the meeting with the AP reporters. Whatever Strzok is referring to – which presumably involved counterintelligence (since Priestap was at the 9 April meeting) and theWaPo story on the Carter Page warrant – the timing indicates strongly that it related to the same “media leak strategy” that saw Weissmann bringing in the AP reporters to talk about evidence on Paul Manafort.
Strzok’s concern wouldn’t necessarily have been Manafort so much. But that’s actually the point. The Carter Page warrant wasn’t the only thing being discussed by DOJ/FBI and the media between 10 and 12 April 2017.
It can’t possibly have been unrelated that DOJ, FBI, and the AP reporters talked about evidence on Manafort at the exact same time. That must have been part of the same “media leak strategy,” which Strzok attributed to the DOJ.
That’s why it is of special interest that we learned at the end of August 2018 that one of the people Bruce Ohr was keeping “in the loop” on Ohr’s updates from Christopher Steele in 2016 and 2017 was – Andrew Weissmann.
Ohr, remember, was being debriefed in late 2016 and early 2017 by the FBI, as he brought in “intelligence” updates from Steele, the author of the notorious dossier. (See last link.) Ohr told Congress at his closed-door hearing on 28 August that one of the people he kept in the loop on his dealings with Steele was Weissmann, a colleague at DOJ.
Recall, additionally, that the two Trump associates named specifically in the dossier were Paul Manafort and Carter Page. Given the complete absence of evidentiary development around the “Trump” pole of the alleged “Trump-Russia” connection, it looks pretty darn particular that the two persons named in the dossier in 2016 were the subjects of an orchestrated “media leaks strategy” that flared up in multiple manifestations between 9 and 12 April of 2017.
The emerging picture is of the same narrative being relentlessly flogged from the beginning, by its creators at Fusion GPS, regardless of its fruitlessness in terms of indicting Trump. In 2017, there was nothing for the DOJ and FBI to add to the narrative. The perpetuation of the old 2016 narrative depended on pumping it with a media bellows.
The emerging picture shouldn’t be any surprise. I’ve noted already, in previous articles, that Fusion GPS – and hence probably Steele – was still being paid through at least May 2017 to flog that narrative. In discussing the 11 April meeting with AP reporters, I suggested that the Manafort information they “questioned” the FBI about may have come from Fusion GPS (and/or from Democratic operative and Hillary associate Alexandra Chalupa). The same Fusion link has been established about the “evidence” used for the Carter Page warrant.
And last week, retired FBI agent Mark Wauck connected the same dots perhaps even more securely in an article at American Thinker, in which he pointed out the connections of Andrew Weissmann.
They are all interesting and meaningful. But one stands out: Andrew Weissmann knows Glenn Simpson’s wife Mary Jacoby, at a minimum through an organization called Global Investigations Review (GIR), for which Jacoby has done reporting since 2008, and for which Weissmann has done professional presentations at conferences on criminal investigation.
Alert readers remember that Mary Jacoby and her family have close connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton going back to the late 1970s and Hillary’s earliest days at the Rose Law Firm. Andrew Weissmann is also considered a close associate and enthusiastic political supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Given Bruce Ohr’s connections to Simpson (founder of Fusion GPS), and his wife Nellie Ohr’s employment with Fusion GPS, the coziness of an Ohr-Weissmann conduit at the Justice Department is obvious.
It is thus no great surprise to find Weissmann in the middle of a “media leaks strategy” involving the Russiagate theme pushed by Fusion GPS, and relating to DOJ-media exchanges about both Carter Page and Paul Manafort. The 2017 media leaks strategy was apparently a continuation of the effort surrounding the Steele dossier, which retailed the original narrative in 2016. It all maps back to Fusion GPS, and the various conduits by which Fusion moved the pieces of the narrative into the DOJ, FBI, and media.
Rep. Meadows wants Rod Rosenstein to provide information from DOJ and FBI officials Stu Evans, Mike Kortan, and Joe Pientka, based on his committee’s review of the “media leaks strategy” texts between Strzok and Page. I would suggest getting information from Andrew Weissmann as well. I would also suggest demanding the immediate removal of Weissmann from the Mueller special counsel team, based on his obvious conflict of interest with the prior Ohr connection on the Steele information flow, and setting up the 11 April 2017 meeting.