The inspector general of the Justice Department says he has retrieved the missing text messages from two senior FBI officials who investigated both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and exchanged critical notes with the president.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office "managed to use forensic tools" to retrieve messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page during a key period of time. five months. Robert S. Mueller III was appointed to investigate possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. The lost messages have unleashed a political storm in recent days, as Republican leaders and the president have questioned how the FBI did not hold them back.
Horowitz's letter did not indicate how many messages were retrieved and said his effort to locate more was "ongoing." He said he would provide copies to the Department of Justice. , and he would have no objections if the leaders there delivered them to Congress if they considered it appropriate. A Justice Department official said the FBI could not store text messages sent from thousands of cell phones, including those of Page and Strzok.
The letter was sent to Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chairman of the National Security Committee.
Horowitz has been investigating the conduct of Strzok and Page as part of her office's investigation into the handling of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server when she was a secretary of state. Both Page and Strzok worked on the Clinton case and on the investigation, led by Mueller, on whether Russian agents could have coordinated with Trump's partners to try to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
On Thursday, Grassley He published some texts previously recovered from the couple about the Clinton case, which questioned whether he had been treated too delicately. In an exchange in February 2016, in which the two talk about the number of agents and prosecutors involved, Page remarked remarkably to the former secretary of state: "One more thing: she could be our next president, the last thing she needs is for us to go there loaded for bear, do you think he will remember or care that it was more doj than fbi? "
In March 2016, Strzok and Page seemed to discuss the possibility that Patrick Fitzgerald, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, was appointed as a special lawyer to supervise the matter.
In a series of messages exchanged on October 28, 2016, Page and Strzok talked about Page's boss, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and a forthcoming story in the Wall Street Journal documenting concerns within the FBI over his oversight of the investigations on Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
Page sent a text message that James Rybicki, the chief of staff of then FBI Director James B. Comey, "clearly 100% believes that Andy should be challenged by the & # 39; perception & # 39 ;." Strzok answered "God," and the Two expressed bewilderment that the FBI would reverse their position on the matter. At that time, the FBI publicly defended McCabe and said there was no reason to challenge him.
Grassley wrote in a letter that the messages "raise serious concerns about the impartiality of the superior leadership that conducts the Clinton and Trump investigations."  The Washington Post reported in December that Strzok was removed from the Trump investigation in July after internal investigators discovered that he and Page, who were romantically involved, exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton texts during investigations of both figures policies Page had left Mueller's team two weeks earlier than Strzok for what officials said were unrelated reasons.
In recent weeks, the Justice Department has provided Congress with hundreds of pages of its messages, and Republicans said the texts reveal political bias in the office at higher levels. Democrats have accused Republicans of taking advantage of the issue in an effort to derail or delegitimize Russia's investigation, accusing conservatives of trying to discredit the FBI in its attempt to protect the president.
Last week Congress was notified that the FBI could not find five-month texts between the two officials, which President Trump and others met with skepticism.
"There are many missing texts, and as I said yesterday, it is the prime time schedule," Trump said Wednesday. "So, they look at that and they say:" What's going on? "
The last day of the missing texts, on May 17, coincided with the decision of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to designate Mueller as special advisor supervising the Russian investigation.
A lot happened during the months prior to that day. Comey met repeatedly with Trump, the Russian investigation intensified and began to focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn and, in early May, Trump fired Comey.
The FBI told the Department of Justice that "many Samsung 5 phones provided by the FBI" devices did not capture or store text messages due to misconfiguration issues related to releases, provisioning and software updates that conflicted with the FBI's collection capabilities, "a Justice Department official told lawmakers in a letter earlier this month.
As a result, he says," data that should have been automatically collected and preserved for storage and long-term recovery were not collected "