DOJ Inspector General: DOJ Did Not Consult IG Before Releasing FBI Text Messages to Media

December 15, 2017
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – This evening, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Vice Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) informing them that DOJ did not consult the Inspector General (IG) before releasing to the media text messages between two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

Today’s letter followed two letters sent yesterday by Nadler, Jeffries and Raskin to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and DOJ's Office of Public Affairs, requesting details regarding the release of text messages between FBI officials to the media.

Ranking Member Nadler and Reps. Jeffries and Raskin released the following joint statement in response to the IG’s letter:

“We are disappointed and alarmed that some within the Justice Department would mislead us about whether or not officials had obtained the approval of the Inspector General before releasing the text messages of Department employees to Congress and the press.  This baffling breach of procedure raises the question of whether these messages should have been released at this time and in this manner in the middle of an ongoing IG investigation. It also invites questions about whether any responsible DOJ officials are going out of their way, not only to disparage the reputations of their colleagues, but to actively try to undermine confidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election in an attempt to appease or directly serve the interests of President Trump. This is a very serious matter, and we expect a full and complete explanation for these misstatements and the underlying suspicious actions by the Department of Justice, including by the Public Affairs Officer, in the coming days.”

Earlier today, the Members sent a letter to DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs Director Sarah Flores seeking clarity after she made inconsistent statements regarding the release of the FBI text messages to the press.

In a statement to CNN yesterday evening, Flores said, “When the initial inquiries came from the committees and members of Congress, the deputy attorney general consulted with the inspector general, and the inspector general determined that he had no objection to the Department’s providing the material to the Congressional committees . . . . After that consultation, senior career ethics advisers determined that there were no legal or ethical concerns, including under the Privacy Act, that prohibited the release of the information to the public either by members of Congress or by the Department.” In a later statement to POLITICO, Flores said, “As we understand now, some members of the media had already received copies of the texts before that—but those disclosures were not authorized by the department.”

On the evening of Tuesday, December 12, 2017, DOJ released 375 text messages between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the House Judiciary Committee. When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Committee the next day, he confirmed that the Department released the text messages to Congress in consultation with the Inspector General and that any determination on wrongdoing regarding Strzok or the Clinton investigation would be made after the IG issued his final report.

The Office of the Inspector General informed the Special Counsel of the existence of these texts messages on July 27, 2017.  Although federal regulations permit an FBI agent to “[e]xpress his or her opinion as an individual privately and publicly on political subjects and candidates,” Special Counsel Mueller immediately removed Strzok from the investigation. 

View the original letter to the DOJ Inspector General here.

View the original letter to the DOJ Public Affairs Director here.

View today’s follow up letter to the DOJ Public Affairs Director here.

View the Inspector General’s response letter here.

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Congressman Jamie Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Montgomery, Frederick, and Carroll counties. He is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, a Senior Democratic Whip, and Freshman Representative to the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee. He also serves on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Committee on House Administration.  He has been a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law for more than 25 years.