Vice President Mike Pence on Friday condemned beleaguered FBI agent Peter Strzok and Justice Department lawyer Lisa Page for discussing the possibility of “infiltrating” his transition team in a series of text messages reviewed by Republican lawmakers.
Pence is demanding further investigation into why Strzok and Page planned to send an agent to his first intelligence briefing as vice president in order to report back on his activities.
“I was deeply offended to learn that two disgraced FBI agents considered infiltrating our transition team by sending a counter intelligence agent to one of my very first intelligence briefings only 9 days after the election,” Pence said in a statement provided to Axios. “This is an outrage and only underscores why we need to get to the bottom of how this investigation started in the first place. The American people have a right to what happened and if these two agents broke the law and ignored long-standing DOJ policies, they must be held accountable.”
Pence’s statement comes one day after Republican senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr alerting him to the existence of text messages that seem to indicate some desire on the part of Strzok and Page to surveil the activities of Pence and his staff.
“The two discussed the possibility of developing ‘potential relationships’ at a November 2016 FBI briefing for presidential transition team staff,” the letter says of Strzok and Page. “Specifically, it appears they discussed sending ‘the CI guy’ to assess an unnamed person(s) ‘demeanor’ but were concerned because it might be unusual for him to attend.”
“He can assess if thete [sic] are any news [sic] Qs, or different demeanor. If Katie’s husband is there, he can see if there are people we can develop for potential relationships,” reads one message.
The text messages have prompted speculation from conservative media outlets that “Katie” refers to the Katherine Seaman, the wife of Jack Pitcock, Pence’s former chief of staff, because Seaman worked on the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign. Pitcock denied any involvement with Strzok and Page or their investigation in a statement provided to Axios.
The letter from top Republicans to Barr has furthered an already-heated partisan battle over the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. Barr has vowed to investigate whether the investigation’s origins were tainted by partisan bias.