Recently discovered text messages - that were deliberately hidden from Congress - reveal that disgraced FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page conspired to meet with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge, Rudolph Contreras, who as we reported last December, "mysteriously recused" himself from handling the case against Michael Flynn, reports The Federalist, which has seen the text messages.
At least the recusal is no longer a mystery.
The text messages about Contreras between controversial Department of Justice lawyer Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the top Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence official who was kicked off Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, were deliberately hidden from Congress, multiple congressional investigators told The Federalist. In the messages, Page and Strzok, who are rumored to have been engaged in an illicit romantic affair, discussed Strzok’s personal friendship with Contreras and how to leverage that relationship in ongoing counterintelligence matters. -The Federalist
“Rudy is on the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]!” Page excitedly texted Strzok on July 25, 2016. “Did you know that? Just appointed two months ago.”
“I did,” Strzok responded. “I need to get together with him.”
“[He] said he’d gotten on a month or two ago at a graduation party we were both at.”
Contreras, appointed by President Obama on May 19, 2016, notably sat on the FISA court while the Trump team was under surveillance by the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Strzok was one of two FBI investigators who took part in a January 24 interview of Michael Flynn - Trump's brand new National Security Director. Flynn later pleaded guilty to a charge of providing false information to the FBI - which was supposed to be heard by judge Contreras on December 1, 2017.
Strzok, who went to work for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, was subsequently removed from the probe by Mueller after the DOJ's internal watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, discovered over 50,000 text messages between Strzok and Page which revealed anti-Trump / pro-Clinton bias, as well as an illicit affair the two were having. Of note, the pair worked at the highest levels on both the Clinton email investigation and the early Trump-Russia investigation until their removal from the Mueller probe.
On December 5, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray demanding the delivery of text messages from Strzok, along with notes from the Flynn interview.
Two days later, Judge Contreras was recused from the Flynn case with no explanation - and it was reassigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.
According to the newly seen text messages, Strzok and Page discussed setting up a cocktail or dinner party with Contreras so they could speak without arousing suspicion of collusion. "Strzok expressed concern that a one-on-one meeting between the two men might require Contreras’ recusal from matters in which Strzok was involved," writes The Federalist.
“[REDACTED] suggested a social setting with others would probably be better than a one on one meeting,” Strzok told Page. “I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to invite you to that cocktail party.”
“Have to come up with some other work people cover for action,” Strzok added.
“Why more?” Page responded. “Six is a perfectly fine dinner party.”
It is unknown whether the get-together happened as planned.
A possibly related aspect of the Strzok - Flynn interview is a January report by Fox News guest and journalist Sara Carter, who said that outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe allegedly ordered FBI agents to change their "302" forms - the paperwork an agent files after interviewing someone.
"I have been told tonight by a number of sources, there's indicators right now that McCabe may have asked FBI agents to actually change their 302's - those are their interviews with witnesses. So basically every time an FBI agent interviews a witness, they have to go back and file a report," Carter told Fox News host Sean Hannity.
While we don't know exactly what went on behind the scenes between Sen. Grassley's December 5th request for Strzok's text messages and Contereras's December 7th recusal, the pre-existing relationship between Strzok and Contreras alone is highly worrisome. Add attempted collusion and a possibly altered "302" form, and there's more than enough evidence to raise serious questions over the integrity of the proceedings against Michael Flynn.
To that end, there have been several calls by Congressional investigators for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor, the most recent of which suggests working with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. On Thursday, Senators Chuck Grassley Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and John Cornyn (Texas), signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to name a special counsel who can "gather all the facts."
"We believe that a special counsel is needed to work with the Inspector General to independently gather the facts and make prosecutorial decisions, if any are merited. The Justice Department cannot credibly investigate itself without these enhanced measures of independence," wrote the senators.
And now, it appears Grassley, Graham and the rest of the Congressional investigators trying to get to the bottom of this have a massive addendum to their letter with the discovery of the Strzok-Contreras relationship.
The only question; what's Sessions going to do.