Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) is calling on the Justice Department to hand over more information regarding the text messages exchanged between two senior FBI employees and any communications they had with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The text messages in question, Grassley said, suggest "some officials took actions beyond expressing their political opinions."
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Grassley wants to know when and how Justice Department officials first learned of the politically charged text messages, and what steps they are taking to fully review the activities referenced in the messages and take any disciplinary measures.
"Any improper political influence or motives in the course of any FBI investigation must be brought to light and addressed," Grassley wrote in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "Former Director Comey's claims that the FBI ‘doesn’t give a rip about politics certainly are not consistent with the evidence of discussions occurring in the deputy director’s office" in August of last year.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday defended special counsel Robert Mueller in the facing of growing criticism that political bias had infected his probe, as well as the top ranks of decision-makers at the FBI and Justice Department.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein said he does not believe there is good cause to fire Mueller. He acknowledged that some members of the Mueller's team have political views but said those personal biases don't necessarily taint their work.
Texts released this week between two FBI officials who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation before being removed call Trump a "loathsome human" and mention the prospects of an "insurance policy" against a Trump presidency.
The electronic messages between FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer, that mention an "insurance policy" also refer to the potential of Strzok working for "Andy"—what some GOP lawmakers believe to be McCabe.
"I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office—that there's no way [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can't take that risk," Strzok wrote to Page in a text released by the Justice Department dated Aug. 15.
"It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40," Strzok wrote in the text.
The Iowa Republican demanded to know when Rosenstein first learned about the texts and asked for any other records relating to McCabe’s communications between Strzok and Page.
McCabe is under scrutiny for playing a key role in the Clinton email investigation even though his wife received $700,000 from Virginia Democrats when she was running for statewide office. That sum includes nearly $500,000 from a political committee affiliated with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons who served on the board of the Clinton Global Initiative.
McCabe failed to recuse himself from the Clinton email probe until one week before the presidential election last year.
Another text referenced a second phone Strzok and Page used to "talk about Hillary because it can't be traced."
That text was sent just days before Strzok interviewed Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills in the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, Grassley noted.
Grassley asked Rosenstein if the Justice Department has identified the phone referenced in the text, and whether it has taken steps to review the records on the phone that allegedly "can’t be traced."
"If none, please explain why not?" he wrote. "If steps have been taken, please detail them and provide all records reviewed."
The Justice Department inspector general is investigating the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, and reportedly discovered the texts during the course of that probe.