The Department of Justice's decision to release controversial text messages between an FBI agent working for special counsel Robert Mueller and a senior attorney at the bureau may backfire, said Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair.
Releasing private communications between two bureau employees has already drawn criticism of Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions' Justice Department, which some accuse of acting as President Donald Trump's attack dog in an effort to undermine the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election -- a topic Trump is notoriously averse to exploring.
Now, questions have arisen over the department's leak of the messages to specific media outlets prior to an official announcement.
“As we understand now, some members of the media had already received copies of the texts,” said spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores. “But those disclosures were not authorized by the department.”
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY) sent a request for information to the department that asked, "Who at the Department of Justice approved your decision to invite the press to view these text messages?” and “Did you consult with any official at the Office of the Inspector General about sharing these text messages with the press prior to the Department’s doing so? Who attended this media briefing?”
The Democrats view the targeted leak by department employees as evidence of an effort within the agency to politicize and derail the Mueller investigation.
Agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page exchanged the text messages during an extramarital affair in the summer of 2016 and Strzok was removed from the investigation as soon as Mueller became aware of the situation.
Nonetheless, President Donald Trump's boosters at Fox News and his surrogates have been beating a steady drumbeat of questions about Mueller's integrity and about the validity of his investigation thanks to anti-Trump messages among the cache of texts. The messages were also critical of Chelsea Clinton, Bernie Sanders and former Attorney Gen. Eric Holder.