Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday admitted that he signed off on the release to media outlets of text messages between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
Rosenstein said in a court filing that he approved the public release of the messages between top FBI agent Peter Strzok and then-FBI attorney Lisa Page in order to protect the FBI and because he believed Congress should see them. Strzok and Page texted each other about their aversion to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
“With the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event, I authorized [DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs] to disclose to the news media the text messages that were being disclosed to Congressional committees,” Rosenstein wrote in an affidavit, adding that he would have prohibited the release of the messages if he believed it was unlawful.
“Otherwise, some congressional members and staff were expected to release them intermittently before, during and after the hearing, exacerbating the adverse publicity for Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page and the Department,” Rosenstein wrote. “The disclosure obviously would adversely affect public confidence in the FBI, but providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures and minimize the appearance of the Department concealing information that was embarrassing to the FBI.”
In their messages to each other, Strzok and Page, who were carrying on an extramarital affair at the time, both called then-candidate Trump an “idiot” and made vague mention of an “insurance policy” to ensure he would not be elected. Critics have speculated that the “insurance policy” referred to the investigation of potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but the two former FBI officials have denied that suggestion.
Nearly 400 text messages between the two were made public in December of 2017.
Rosenstein’s admission in the court filing is part of the Justice Department’s defense against a lawsuit levied by Strzok, who claims the DOJ and FBI terminated him wrongfully and violated his privacy and due process rights.