Top Republicans on Wednesday demanded that Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson explain why the watchdog hasn’t said if it’s investigating “a number of leaks of highly sensitive information” in recent years — and released several previously unpublished texts and emails from since-fired FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, specifically asked the ICIG why Strzok texted bureau colleague Lisa Page on Dec. 15, 2016: “Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad. Scorned and worried and political, they’re kicking in to overdrive.”
“What are they worried about, and what are they kicking into ‘overdrive?’ Johnson and Grassley wrote. “Who are the ‘sisters,’ and what does it mean to say that the ‘sisters have [been] leaking like mad’?”
Additionally, the senators pushed to know whether the ICIG was looking into Strzok’s email to FBI colleagues on April 13, 2017, when he wrote that an unidentified “agency” might be the “source of some of the leaks” to the media that he’d been seeing.
“I’m beginning to think the agency got info a lot earlier than we thought and hasn’t shared it completely with us,” Strzok wrote, according to documents that the senators included in their letter to the ICIG. “Might explain all these weird/seemingly incorrect leads all these media folks have. Would also highlight agency as a source of some of the leaks.”
In a June 6, 2017 email to Page, Strzok mused, “Think there will be a crescendo of leaks/articles leading up to Thurs.”
And, a Dec. 13, 2016 text message apparently showed Strzok trying to set up a Skype meeting with a reporter. “Text from reporter: retrieving my password for Skype,” he wrote.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz faulted the FBI last year for repeated violations of its media communications policy, noting that agents had received gifts from reporters and leaked regularly.
Then, on April 6, 2017, Strzok wrote to senior FBI leadership to complain about a New York Times article entitled, “C.I.A. Had Evidence of Russian Effort to Help Trump Earlier Than Believed,” claiming it painted the FBI in an unfavorable light and got key facts wrong.
“Mike, below is inaccurate, favors the CIA at the expense of the FBI in particular, and is at odds with what Apuzzo and Goldman know,” Strzok wrote. “Most importantly, it’s at odds with the D’s [FBI Director’s] recent public testimony that we’ve been looking at links (which necessarily imply favoring Trump) since July ’16.”
Strzok specifically objected to the Times’ reporting that CIA’s briefings with lawmakers “indicate that intelligence officials had evidence of Russia’s intentions to help Mr. Trump much earlier in the presidential campaign than previously thought,” and “reveal a critical split last summer between the C.I.A. and counterparts at the F.B.I., where a number of senior officials continued to believe through last fall that Russia’s cyberattacks were aimed primarily at disrupting America’s political system, and not at getting Mr. Trump elected, according to interviews.”
Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, isn’t updating Congress on whether he’s looking into leaks, top GOP senators charged. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Johnson and Grassley emphasized in their letter that the Trump administration “has faced 125 leaked stories — one leak a day — containing information that was potentially damaging to national security,” according to standards laid out during the Obama administration.
The Republicans have sought answers formally from the ICIG concerning those leaks since May. But, they wrote Wednesday, the ICIG has been nonresponsive — and even claimed that it cannot comment because Atkinson gave closed-door congressional testimony on Capitol Hill and the transcript of his remarks is not yet public.
“We are not aware of any justification for this position, which is particularly concerning given the role of inspectors general in promoting transparency and helping Congress to fulfill its oversight responsibilities,” Grassley and Johnson wrote.
The nonresponsiveness, the senators added, was unique to the ICIG. They noted that Horowitz regularly had briefed Congress on the existence of his probes into DOJ and FBI misconduct, and even “specifically mentioned personnel by job title.”
The senators additionally sought information related to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry — specifically, whether the ICIG was made aware of the whistleblower’s complaint and the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s leader before they were made public.
“Are you investigating the classified leaks relating to the complaint and Ukraine call?” The senators asked. “If not, why not?”
The letter came as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., unloaded on House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry at a press conference on Thursday, saying the proceedings defy historical precedent and deny fundamental “due process” to the White House.
“If we were doing this, you’d be beating the sh– out of us,” Graham bluntly told a reporter at one point, accusing Democrats of selectively leaking testimony from their closed-door hearings, without affording Republicans the opportunity to subpoena or publicly cross-examine witnesses. “And, I think it says a lot about people in your business, with all due respect.”
He continued: “We’re not telling the House they can’t impeach the president. What we’re telling the House is, there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. … This is one part legal, and two parts politics.”
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.