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More texts turned over from FBI agent taken off Mueller team

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By ERIC TUCKER

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has turned over to Congress additional text messages involving an FBI agent who was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team following the discovery of derogatory comments about President Donald Trump.

But the department also said in a letter to lawmakers that its record of messages sent to and from the agent, Peter Strzok, was incomplete because the FBI, for technical reasons, had been unable to preserve and retrieve about five months’ worth of communications.

New text messages highlighted in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray by Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are from the spring and summer of 2016 and involve discussion of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. They reference Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to accept the FBI’s conclusion in that case and a draft statement that former FBI Director James Comey had prepared in anticipation of closing out the Clinton investigation without criminal charges.

The FBI declined to comment Sunday.

Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent who also worked the Clinton email case, was reassigned last summer from the team investigating ties between Russia and Trump’s Republican presidential campaign after Mueller learned he had exchanged politically charged text messages — many anti-Trump in nature — with an FBI lawyer also detailed to the group. The lawyer, Lisa Page, left Mueller’s team before the text messages were discovered.

The Justice Department last month produced for reporters and Congress hundreds of text messages that the two had traded before becoming part of the Mueller investigation. Many focused on their observations of the 2016 election and included discussions in often colorful language of their personal feelings about Trump, Clinton and other public figures. Some Republican lawmakers have contended the communication reveals the FBI and the Mueller team to be politically tainted and biased against Trump — assertions Wray has flatly rejected.

In addition to the communications already made public, the Justice Department on Friday provided Johnson’s committee with 384 pages of text messages, according to a letter from the Wisconsin lawmaker that was obtained by The Associated Press.

But, according to the letter, the FBI told the department that its system for retaining text messages sent and received on bureau phones had failed to preserve communications between Strzok and Page over a five-month period between Dec. 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017. May 17 was the date that Mueller was appointed as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.

The explanation for the gap was “misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities.”

In Johnson’s letter to Wray, he asks whether the FBI has any records of communications between Strzok and Page during that five-month window and whether the FBI had searched their non-FBI phones for additional messages. He also asks for the “scope and scale” of any other records from the Clinton investigation that have been lost.

One of the messages references a change in language to Comey’s statement closing out the email case involving Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election. While an earlier draft of the statement said Clinton and President Barack Obama had an email exchange while Clinton was “on the territory” of a hostile adversary, the reference to Obama was at first changed to “senior government official” and then omitted entirely in the final version.

In another exchange, the two express displeasure about the timing of Lynch’s announcement that she would defer to the FBI’s judgment on the Clinton investigation. That announcement came days after it was revealed that the attorney general and former President Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting aboard her plane in Phoenix, though both sides said the email investigation was never discussed.

Strzok said in a July 1 text message that the timing of Lynch’s announcement “looks like hell.” And Page appears to mockingly refer to Lynch’s decision to accept the FBI’s conclusion in the case as a “real profile in courag(e) since she knows no charges will be brought.”

Days later, on July 5, Comey announced the FBI’s recommendation that no criminal charges were merited.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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This story has been corrected to show that the five-month period in which communications were not preserved ended May 17, 2017, not May 7, 2017.

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Voters are casting away

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As of 2 p.m., 4,169 people in Onslow County have voted.

The only Democratic ballot with the highest voter turnout is in Richlands with 380 ballots cast so far. Four other precincts with a Democratic race are Catherine Lake (147), Gum Branch (221), Haws Run (138), and Nine Mile (122).

New River precinct has only seen eight voters so far-because they have Democratic ballots.

Precincts with just Republican ballots have reached higher number than those with ballots for two political parties.

Northwoods is in 2nd with the highest turnout of voters (273), followed by Brynn Marr and East Northwoods, both of which have seen (249) voters.

Vote Count For Each Precinct:

  1. Bear Creek: 241
  2. Brynn Marr: 249
  3. Catherine Lake: 147
  4. Cross Roads: 225
  5. East Northwoods: 249
  6. Folkstone: 166
  7. Gum Branch: 221
  8. Half Moon: 172
  9. Haws Run: 138
  10. Holly Ridge: 86
  11. Hubert: 155
  12. Jacksonville: 81
  13. Mills: 62
  14. Morton’s: 100
  15. New River: 8
  16. Nine Mile: 122
  17. Northeast A: 83
  18. Northeast B: 193
  19. Richlands: 380
  20. Snead’s Ferry: 223
  21. Swansboro: 314
  22. Tar Landing: 169
  23. Verona: 112
  24. West Northwoods: 273
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Voters to choose party nominees in Primary Election Day

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North Carolina voters are choosing their parties’ nominees in dozens of legislative and congressional primary races congested with contestants.

More than 35 current General Assembly members and eight congressional incumbents are trying to advance through Tuesday’s primary elections.

Sitting members of Congress seeking re-election include House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and Rep. Patrick McHenry, the chief deputy whip in the House. The most threatened GOP incumbents may be Reps. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte and Walter Jones of Farmville.

A little over 4 percent of the state’s 6.9 million registered voters cast ballots before Tuesday through early in-person or traditional absentee voting. Some registrants had no primaries in which to vote because there are no statewide races on Tuesday’s ballot.

You can find voter information including your registered polling precinct and a sample ballot for your area at the North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement website. The polls are open from 6:30am-7:30 pm.

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Who will be your pick for Onslow County Sheriff on May 8? Vote Now!

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[yop_poll id=”1″]

 

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