The Department of Justice has recovered missing text messages between anti-Trump FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the DOJ’s inspector general said Thursday.
In a letter sent to congressional committees, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office “succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices, including text messages between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page that were sent or received between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.”
“Our effort to recover any additional text messages is ongoing,” Horowitz said. “We will provide copies of the text messages that we recover from these devices to the Department so that the Department’s leadership can take any management action it deems appropriate.”
Fox News has learned from U.S. government officials that the inspector general recovered the texts by taking possession of “at least four” phones belonging to Strzok and Page.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity had reported Wednesday that the Department of Justice had started to recover some of the texts.
The missing messages have been at the center of a storm of controversy on Capitol Hill, after the DOJ notified congressional committees that there is a gap in records between Dec. 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017. Strzok and Page are under scrutiny after it was revealed that the former members of Robert Mueller’s team exchanged a series of anti-Trump texts during the presidential campaign.
The gap in records covered a crucial period, raising suspicion among GOP lawmakers about how those messages disappeared.
More than 50,000 texts were exchanged between Strzok and Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed Monday. The texts are believed to have taken place during the course of a romantic affair.
Sessions had pledged to figure out how some of their texts went missing.
“We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source,” Sessions said in a statement provided to Fox News. “If we are successful, we will update the congressional committees immediately.”
Federal law enforcement officials told Fox News on Wednesday that thousands of FBI cellphones were affected by the technical glitch that apparently prevented those Strzok and Page messages from being stored or uploaded into the bureau’s archive system.
Horowitz sent his letter confirming the discovery of texts to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had inquired about the messages.
The five-month stretch of missing messages covers a period of time that includes President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the firings of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey and the standing-up of former FBI Director Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
President Trump had weighed in on the missing texts, tweeting this week: “Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok?”
Republicans, arguing some top officials at the FBI are politically biased against Trump, have seized on the texts.
In one text exchange, Strzok and Page spoke of a “secret society” within the Department of Justice and the FBI the day after Trump’s victory, according to two lawmakers with knowledge of the messages.
“We learned today about information that in the immediate aftermath of [Trump’s] election, that there may have been a secret society of folks within the Department of Justice and the FBI — to include Page and Strzok — that would be working against him,” Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, said Monday on Fox News.
In another infamous message, Strzok appeared to make reference to an “insurance policy” against a Trump win.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…” he wrote.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.