Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page instructed her colleagues to go easy on Hillary Clinton during the FBI’s email investigation, because “she might be our next president,” according to a Justice Department inspector general report released Thursday.
Page told FBI agent Peter Strzok he and his colleagues should be careful not to come off as too aggressive when they interviewed Clinton about her illegal use of a private email server.
“One more thing: She might be our next president,” Page said in a Feb. 24, 2016, text to Strzok. “The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more doj than fbi?”
“Agreed….” Strzok replied.
Page sent a similar text to Andrew McCabe, then deputy director of the FBI, and another FBI employee unnamed in the IG report. They were discussing how many people to have in the room when the Justice Department and FBI interviewed Clinton. Having a lot of people in the room “is not operationally necessary,” Page said in another text. “This is as much about reputational protection as anything.”
Page resigned from the FBI after texts between her and Strzok about the Clinton probe and the presidential election came to light. Strzok was removed from the Clinton and Trump investigations and demoted, yet remains employed by the FBI. McCabe abruptly left the FBI in January, ahead of news the IG found he leaked a story to the media for personal gain then lied about it to investigators.
The Clinton interview was later scheduled for July 2, 2016, and there were three FBI officials and five DOJ officials in the room, the IG report states. Strzok and Page told investigators the texts did not mean Clinton should get preferential treatment.
Page said she was urging the FBI to follow protocol, in working to avoid giving the impression “like we’re trying to intimidate” Clinton. Having fewer people in the room is good for rapport, she said, and by “loaded for bear” she meant they shouldn’t unnecessarily give an aggressive impression by having a lot of people. Strzok said he did not interpret Page’s text to mean the FBI should treat Clinton differently because she might become president, and maintains no decision was made on that basis.