According to multiple media sources, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General could not recover text messages from the cellphones of former Special Counsel staffers during its investigation of possible bias and even possible criminality by former FBI official Peter Strzok and his one-time girlfriend, Lisa Page, a former lawyer with the FBI. Instead of saving the text messages on their iPhones, an unnamed officer had apparently wiped them clean, raising the issue of possible obstruction of justice within Mueller’s investigative team.
Page and Strzok were both fired from their jobs on Mueller’s Special Counsel staff, after it became public that the two were hopelessly biased against President Donald Trump.
The Inspector General’s office of the Justice Department was tasked to look into possible violations of law and department rules, but apparently someone, acting either with or without Mueller’s approval, decided that potential evidence on the cellphones of Strzok and Page was not worth preserving.
Investigators were told that Strzok’s phone “had been reset to factory settings and was reconfigured for the new user to whom the device was issued.” The records officer apparently had decided the phone “did not contain records that needed to be retained,” writing in her records log, “No substantive texts, notes or reminders.”
So we are supposed to take the word of another member of Mueller’s team on that. How many of Mueller’s subordinates are hopelessly biased against Trump is not known. But Mueller had brought aboard many prosecutors who had been involved in controversial actions in the past, such as the “corruption” case against former Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). It was later discovered that these prosecutors, hired by Mueller for the “Russian collusion” investigation, had withheld exculpatory evidence involving Stevens. By the time this was discovered, Stevens’ political career was in ruins
Other prosecutors hired by Mueller included several who were associated with Democratic politicians such as Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama. Many even donated to the Clinton or Obama campaigns. Mueller’s own bias in the investigation is also well known. He is a long-time friend and associate of former FBI Director James Comey. It was Comey’s firing that led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to name Mueller as special counsel to investigate any ties between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign. Even if Mueller did not harbor any bias against Trump, because of his friend Comey, Rosenstein should have avoided the mere appearance of bias in his selection of Mueller.
The handling of the cellphones of Strzok and Page only intensifies that appearance of bias by Robert Mueller. In regard to Strzok’s phone, Fox News has reported that the officer who wiped his phone told investigators with the Inspector General’s office that the records officer could “not recall whether there were any text messages on” Strzok’s phone, but “she made an identical log entry for an iPhone she reviewed from another employee on the same day that she specifically recalled having no text messages.”
Debra Heine of PJ Media found the situation with Page’s phone equally curious. “In a phone call, Page told the special counsel’s office (SCO) after she left the team that she left her government-issued iPhone and laptop on a bookshelf at the office. The SCO located the laptop, but when the OIG asked for the iPhone on January 24, 2018, the SCO could not locate it.”
It was finally located — in September — but by that time, the OIG found out that her phone had also been scrubbed of any potential evidence. Interestingly, her phone was not reissued to anyone else within the Justice Department. It is not known either who took custody of the Page phone, or who scrubbed it clean. This was done despite known messages in which Page and Strzok shared their mutual hatred for Trump in particular and Republicans in general.
The OIG’s office was also told that a “technical glitch” had led to several other messages between Strzok and Page being lost, but they were later recovered by the OIG’s office. It is reported that there are about 19,000 messages between Stzok and Page.
All of this does not prove that Robert Mueller himself directed the destruction of potential criminality by members of his prosecutorial team, but it does raise questions of whether Mueller’s investigation is hopelessly politically biased against Trump, to the extent that they would be willing to frame him.
In addition to this specific investigation by Mueller, the very office of special counsel itself raises several issues that should be of concern to any American who values the constitutional separation of powers. As I cover in an upcoming print magazine article for The New American, former Attorney General Janet Reno concluded that the very office of special counsel (called independent counsel or special prosecutor at different times) was “structurally flawed.” In his dissent to the Supreme Court case which upheld the independent counsel law, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “While the separation of powers may prevent us from righting every wrong, it does so in order to ensure that we do not lose liberty.”
Experience with these prosecutions has demonstrated that they are more often “fishing expeditions” that target certain individuals and then try to match a crime with them. This is Stalinist. As Lavrentiy Beria, the ruthless head of Joseph Stalin’s NKVD (later the KGB) bluntly put it, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”
This appears to be what has happened with the Mueller investigation, just as with previous special counsel investigations. They have no interest in misbehavior by members of their own team that may have corrupted their investigation of Donald Trump. After all, as Beria put it, they have their man (Trump) — now they will find the crime.