The Department of Justice wiped text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strozk from their cell phones before the Office of the Inspector General could review them, a new report from the DOJ watchdog reveals.
Page and Strozk’s involvement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has been heavily scrutinized after it was revealed they had sent numerous anti-Trump text messages back and forth to one another. Mueller has been tasked with looking into whether or not Donald Trump and his campaign associates coordinated with Russian officials to steal the 2016 election away from Hillary Clinton.
The 11-page report reveals that almost a month after Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team, his government-issued iPhone was wiped clean and restored to factory settings by another individual working in Mueller’s office. The special counsel’s Record’s Officer told investigators that “she determined it did not contain records that needed to be retained.”
“She noted in her records log about Strzok’s phone: ‘No substantive texts, notes or reminders,'” the report states.
When the OIG obtained his old cell phone in January, it had been issued to another individual within the agency and investigators were unable to recover any text messages sent or received by Strozk on that device.
Two weeks after Page departed Mueller’s team on July 15, 2017, her government-issued iPhone was also wiped and restored to factory settings and had not been reissued to another person within the agency. No one within the special counsel’s office or the Justice Management Divisions of the agency had any records as to who cleared all the data from the iPhone.
The OIG was able to recover more than 19,000 texts between Strozk and Page on their old government-issued Samsung Galaxy S5 devices that had been lost due to the agency’s “collection tool failure.” The OIG did not include the content of these texts in the report.