Strzok's Declassified Messages Reveal How FBI Handled Russia Probe Peter Strzok (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
By Marisa Herman | Thursday, 17 December 2020 10:36 AM
Newly declassified FBI messages from Peter Strzok, the former counterintelligence official in charge of looking into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, show how the bureau handled the probe, the Daily Caller reports.
The messages were released by Senate Republicans on Thursday as part of an investigation into Crossfire Hurricane, the code name for the probe of President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
GOP Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley asked Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray to declassify the documents on Oct. 30. The Justice Department declassified the records on Dec. 1. The outlet reports it received the documents prior to their release.
The messages show Strzok, who was fired from the FBI in August 2018, and other officials strategizing ways to handle the investigation and conduct interviews with possible targets. According to the documents, Strzok was given real-time updates as FBI agents or undercover sources met with Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, who were early targets of the investigation.
According to the Daily Caller, Strzok’s messages mention Christopher Steele, the former British spy whose dossier the FBI used to obtain surveillance warrants against Page.
The messages, which are from the FBI’s Link system, suggest that Strzok knew early on that Steele was a source for a story published in Yahoo! News. The story alleged that Page had a secret meeting in Moscow with two Kremlin insiders.
“Looking at the Yahoo article, I would definitely say at a minimum Steele’s reports should be viewed as intended to influence as well as to inform,” Strzok wrote on Sept. 23, 2016.
Even though Strzok noted that he thought Steele was a source for the article, the FBI continued its relationship with Steele. The bureau did not inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that the ex-spy had contact with journalists, according to the outlet. The FBI did cut ties with Steele after he spoke to journalists for another dossier-related story on Oct. 31, 2016.
Strzok’s messages also show that he and others at the FBI had inside information about CNN’s plans to publish a story about then-FBI Director James Comey’s briefing to Trump regarding allegations in the dossier.
“Story no longer Sciutto, now Evan Perez. Internal nervousness about nature of allegations,” Strzok wrote to Page on Jan. 9, 2017, mentioning two CNN reporters.
CNN reported on Jan. 10, 2017, that Comey had briefed Trump days earlier about an allegation in the dossier that the Kremlin had a sexual blackmail tape against Trump.
The messages also provide insight into Strzok’s theories about Papadopoulos’ role in the alleged collusion with Russia. Strzok’s initial suspicions were ultimately proven wrong by the special counsel’s investigation, which found no evidence that any Trump associates conspired with the Russian government.
The FBI launched its probe based on a tip from Australian diplomat Alexander Downer who claimed that Papadopoulos had told him during a meeting in London on May 10, 2016 that the Russian government might help the Trump campaign.
Strzok wrote that the FBI wanted to look into the alleged offer. He presumed that Papadopoulos would have information that would implicate Carter Page and Paul Manafort.
“I think our anticipation is he has visibility into a conversation about the Russian offer of help (and I’d be willing to bet if he talks, he fingers Page or Manafort),” Strzok wrote to Jennifer Boone, a deputy assistant director.
Messages show that Papadopoulos, who was given the code name Crossfire Typhoon, was with his mother when FBI agents approached him for an interview. His mother urged him not to go to the FBI office, but he went anyway.
“Ha, that’s funny re Typhoon,” Strzok wrote. “That’s what you get for not listening to mom.”
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to making false statements to the FBI during the Jan. 27, 2017 interview. He was not charged with any crimes related to Russia and election interference.