The IG Report (and Public Evidence) Shows that Peter Strzok Lost the Argument to Investigate Aggressively

CNN provides an explanation, such as one is possible, for why Trump thinks the DOJ IG report on the Hillary investigation undermines the entire Russia investigation, which he just tweeted about.

The logic treats the FBI investigation into suspected Russian assets on Trump’s campaign as a conspiracy against Trump personally, based in part on Peter Strzok’s texts, taken out of the context of decisions made on the Russia investigation.

Trump’s lawyers now believe that since the IG report gave those at the FBI “the benefit of the doubt” about their behavior — finding no conspiracy — then the President should receive the same treatment. “Why doesn’t that apply to the President as well?” one source said.

In addition, while the IG report found no evidence of political bias, the President’s attorneys believe they can argue the entire investigation is tainted and corrupt, given the text from FBI Agent Peter Strzok that said about Trump’s election, “We’ll stop it.”

Of course, even within the context of the Hillary IG report, Strzok offers the evidence against the corruption of the FBI: that unlike the constant leaks about the Hillary investigation (the IG Report’s far biggest fault is that it doesn’t treat the leaking from SDNY as a topic unto itself), the FBI didn’t leak, at all, about the investigation into the suspected Russian assets on Trump’s campaign.

Strzok stated that had he—or the FBI in general—actually wanted to prevent Trump from being elected, they would not have maintained the confidentiality of the investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and members of the Trump campaign in the months before the election. Page similarly stated that, although she could not speak to what Strzok meant by that text message, the FBI’s decision to keep the Russia investigation confidential before the election shows that they did not take steps to impact the outcome of the election.

Because this is an IG Report on the Hillary investigation and not an IG Report on the Russia investigation, it does not explain the import of this answer from Strzok, explaining his insurance policy text.

In a text message exchange on August 15, 2016, Strzok told Page, “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….”


Strzok provided a lengthy explanation for this text message. In substance, Strzok told us that he did not remember the specific conversation, but that it likely was part of a discussion about how to handle a variety of allegations of “collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the government of Russia.” As part of this discussion, the team debated how aggressive to be and whether to use overt investigative methods. Given that Clinton was the “prohibitive favorite” to win, Strzok said the reference in his text message to an “insurance policy” reflected his conclusion that the FBI should investigate the allegations thoroughly right away, as if Trump were going to win. Strzok stated that Clinton’s position in the polls did not ultimately impact the investigative decisions that were made in the Russia matter.

In the inevitable IG report on the Russia investigation, this passage will be followed with analysis of what the outcome of this debate was, whether to use overt investigative methods or not. It will show that Strzok lost that debate.

We know that, in part, because Sally Yates said as much, and said it about the investigation into Paul Manafort. This is her explanation to the IG about overt steps in advance of an election.

And the Bureau never pushed back on that concept. This actually came up with, in the connection with Paul Manafort. And they had an investigation on Manafort and I had a lengthy discussion with [McCabe], at least one, maybe more, about how important it was at that time that our investigation not be overt. And what they were, what the Bureau was doing with respect to Manafort because that could impact Trump even though he was no longer his campaign manager. That unless there was something they really needed to do, because they were getting records and doing that kind of, unless there was something they needed, really needed to do overt they really needed to stay under the radar screen…. Because it’s not fair to impact [an election].

That this comment is about Manafort is significant for two reasons. First, because Manafort’s corruption was — like the Hillary email investigation — public. More importantly, the date of Strzok’s text, August 15, likely means the discussion was specifically in the contexts of the stories that week about Manafort’s corruption.

Moreover, there’s additional evidence the FBI didn’t take overt steps, particularly with those still tied to Trump’s campaign. It wasn’t until some time after February 16, 2017  — literally six months after that text — that FBI subpoenaed George Papadopoulos’ call records, a move FBI could have taken at any time with a “relevance” standard. That delay meant that Papadopoulos hid the existence of his entire communication history with Ivan Timofeev until after his two interviews (and tried to hide it entirely by deleting his Facebook account).

In this post, I showed that, given that they didn’t know about Ivan Timofeev until after his interviews, they could not even have started pursuing a warrant until after the first interview, at best (and didn’t know about the existence communications over a Section 702 provider with Timofeev until after both). In this post, I suggested that it looked like the FBI first obtained a preservation order for the device GSA had on him on March 9, 21 days after his second interview.

Since then two details have come out. First, this Peter Strzok/Lisa Page SMS text highlighted by Matt Tait suggests that as late as June 6, 2017, the Special Counsel’s office was still debating whether searching Section 702 presented a litigation risk (meaning Trump’s buddies are getting far more protection than the rest of us might be).

Then there’s a point that Eric Swalwell made in Monday’s hearing debating whether or not to reveal the Schiff memo. In response to Michael Turner’s suggestion that there was no evidence of “collusion” between Trump and Russia, Swalwell pointed out that only after the FBI challenged Trump aide claims did the Bureau find evidence to support a conspiracy.

George Papadopoulos I think is the canary in the coal mine. He was interviewed January 27, 2017, by FBI. He lied about his contacts over in London with the professor. He was interviewed again in February, and he lied. Only when the FBI showed the willingness to subpoena his Skype and Facebook logs did he come around 6 months later.

This makes it clear that the FBI had not even obtained call records from Papadopoulos (via an NSL or a subpoena) before the second interview, the standard for which is really low.

Again, this shows that, at least during that phase of the investigation, the FBI was moving very conservatively.

And, as noted, even several weeks after Robert Mueller took over the investigation, the team was still debating whether they could do what FBI otherwise does at an assessment level, which is to search 702 data in the FBI’s custody. As I’ve noted, the use of lifetime Republican Stefan Halper to ask Papadopoulos questions (the FBI can use informants at the assessment level) rather than collecting actual call records not only seems to have been an effort to use least intrusive means possible to chase down leads, but it also badly delayed the discovery of key details about Russia’s attempts to curry favor with Trump aides.

If Peter Strzok argued in August that the FBI should be far more aggressive investigating suspected assets infiltrating the Trump campaign to prevent the possibility that a Manchurian candidate might take over the country, he lost that debate, and continued to lose it for the almost the entirety of the time he was involved in the investigation, which according to the IG Report came on July 28, the day after IG Michael Horowitz informed Rod Rosenstein and Mueller about his texts with Lisa Page.

We then obtained all text messages and instant messages for those FBI personnel for the entire period of the Midyear investigation through July 1, 2017, to capture post-election discussions.


Strzok was removed from the Special Counsel’s investigation on approximately July 28, 2017, and returned to the FBI in another position, after the OIG informed the DAG and Special Counsel of the text messages discussed in this report on July 27, 2017.

So Strzok lost his argument to investigate more aggressively, and as soon as evidence of his alarm about the suspected assets infiltrating the Trump campaign and his disgust with Trump generally became known, he was removed from the case.

This is the evidence that Trump wants to turn into a conspiracy against him.

All that said, Strzok remained on the case just long enough to net its first arrest, that of Papadopoulos on July 26. Which is why I’m so interested in his explanation for a May 18, 2017 text, another one that disproves the conspiracy. In the text written 10 months after the start of the investigation, Strzok suggested his gut sense suggested “there’s no big there there.”

“you and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”

Here’s his explanation of the text after the fact, which would incorporate information he learned in the two months he remained on the investigation after May 18.

As I looked at the predicating information, as I looked at the facts as we understood them from…the allegations that Russia had these emails, and offered to members of the Trump campaign to release them. As we looked at the various actors, the question [was,]…was that part of a broad, coordinated effort, or was that simply a bunch of opportunists seeking to advance their own or individual agendas…which of that is it? …My question [was] about whether or not this represented a large, coordinated conspiracy or not. And from that, as I looked at what would give me professional fulfillment, what I thought would be the best use of my skills and talents for the FBI and for the United States, whether to take, which path to take. [my emphasis]

On May 18, he suggested there was no big there there. But in a description of the investigation that reflects knowledge through July 28, during which period FBI finally started analyzing call records (and also learned about the June 9 Trump Tower meeting), he instead weighed it as a matter of determining whether there was a “broad, coordinated effort” or just “a bunch of opportunists seeking to advance their own or individual agendas.” Virtually all the evidence answering that question was collected and analyzed after Peter Strzok was removed from the investigation.

One detail here is new, however. When describing his understanding of the investigation through July 28, Strzok described Russians offering emails to members, plural, of the Trump campaign. Not just Papadopoulos.

Update: This post was edited for flow.

37 replies
    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      No. She argued for covert, but said ‘not be overt’.

      Strzok wanted covert also.

      But things did not play out that way.

      Likely due to already ongoing investigations.

      Think internal.

  1. jo blow says:

    simple question – do you think the fbi was biased against trump and in favour of hillary? answer that question and you can fill in all the blanks..

  2. Trip says:

    ‘The FBI is Trumpland’: anti-Clinton atmosphere spurred leaking, sources say
    The currently serving FBI agent said Clinton is “the antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel,” and that “the reason why they’re leaking is they’re pro-Trump.”
    The agent called the bureau “Trumplandia”, with some colleagues openly discussing voting for a GOP nominee who has garnered unprecedented condemnation from the party’s national security wing and who has pledged to jail Clinton if elected.

    • jo blow says:

      a link from that horrible rag the guardian to support the suggestion the fbi is/was biased – we are in agreement about that much! does that mean we can take everything else they offer and throw it in the trash can too? it would appear so..

        • Trip says:

          S/he really takes to heart the cult leader’s expression of “Everybody is saying” which translated just means only Trump is saying. Jim Jones would be impressed. Charlie Manson too.

        • Fran of the North says:

          I’ll add David Koresh and Marshall Applewhite (he of the black nike crew) to your list. Able to distort reality for followers: to convince them to believe the unbelievable and commit irrational acts.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yep.  I think EW alluded to that when saying that this IG report did not deal with the leaks from SDNY during the 2016 campaign.  SDNY seemed devoutly anti-Hillary and pro-Trump.

      I think that illustrates that there were many vehement sources of anti-Hillary feeling.  Combine that with an arguably poor campaign and entirely domestic problems – a press biased in favor of that clickbait clown Trump, relentless gerrymandering and GOP anti-voter turnout drives – and you have an unstable election that might have allowed Russia’s influence campaign to be decisive.  All of those factors operated in tandem.  A necessary consideration going forward.

      • Trip says:

        I was not a fan of Clinton, but aside from her shortfalls, she had strong forces against her. And if I am honest with myself, beyond the facts of her political positions that I didn’t agree with, the other factors most definitely were influential, at least to some extent (never enough to get me to vote for Trump, though)

        This is a really good thread by southpaw: (it’s long, but here’s an excerpt)
        Coverage of the IG report has not focused on this revelation of political bias, indeed “hatred,” by FBI agents affecting the election outcome. Instead it has been preoccupied with Strzok/Page, whose views the IG concluded had not affected the investigation much less the election.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We see in others what we are most concerned about in ourselves. Trump frequently demonstrates that in talk about his genius, the size of his hands, the greatness of his negotiating prowess. His tweet at the top illustrates the idea beautifully.

    Trump obsesses about “minions,” that a man has no power without them, and that they topple with their “man”, in an act of sati, as it were [which should worry Michael Cohen and others].

    Trump obsesses about illicit or simply covert sexual relationships. Trump’s tweet about “lovers” was derisive, not simply, I think, to attack an enemy by exposing a vulnerability, but to deride the idea of joining love and sex. It’s as if he thinks it both impossible and unwise.

    • Sabrina says:

      That last point about Trump mentioning “lovers” with derision- interesting observation that got me thinking. As someone who views the world transactionally, where there are only winners and losers, he believes the same in his personal life. Trump, who is blatantly lacking in empathy, likely sees the idea of love and commitment as a weakness. He can’t feel unconditional love, so fails to understand the emotion, and therefore actively feels contempt for it.

      This explains a few things about his behavior: for example, criticizing the appearances of rival politicians’ wives- a clear measure of his relative superiority.

      Probably also why he has kept people like Bannon, Stephen Miller, even Giuliani close to him- they all seem like they view “love” as an unnecessary emotional impediment to “winning” at life, a viewpoint that tends to lead to misogynistic sentiment more generally (Miller, for example, embodies this in spades). If women are reduced to status symbols, valuable only by appearance or youth, the idea of love- sharing your finances, ceding control of every decision- is therefore patently ridiculous.

      What a lonely and joyless existence he must lead, though he would never know it since he’s never felt anything else. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, I suppose.

      • JD12 says:

        Those are both good observations.

        I spent years working at an institution for the criminally insane. The judge orders an evaluation and you have to interview them and their friends and family to understand their behavior. Were they responding to hallucinations or delusions? Did they understand the potential consequences? And so on. Their behavior was always motivated by fear of some threat—real or perceived—even though normal people don’t understand.

        You wouldn’t have to interview Trump. He puts it all out there if you know what to look for. The angry tweets are from a very scared man, and he is lonely and joyless. It would be sad—it would be amusing that his phallic insecurities are behind his need for bigger planes and his long quest to own the world’s tallest building—but the position he’s in is very dangerous, and getting worse.

        At times during his meeting with Kim he actually looked submissive. His handshake was prostrated, he began going through doors ahead of Kim, and he saluted the general. I think, though I’m not sure, that the reason he has disdain for Western leaders and deference to Putin and Kim is because according to his value system, non-American of course,  they are more powerful and have more personal wealth than he does.


  4. Rugger9 says:

    Jo blow: the IG report left a yuuuge gap about the SDNY FBI office leaking to Rudy Ghouliani (who just announced yet another affair – two in one week) and to Devin Nunes (his so-called “good agents” on the Ingraham Angle show). This was never investigated fully, and Andrew Sullivan was on the John Batchelor radio show saying that the Washington politics was the reason for this, and investigations need to be kept local (like the hatchet wielding SDNY Feeb office) so that seems to be the explanation du jour for covering up the fact these maroons leaked rank speculation without even asking to search the laptop. Let me repeat: they leaked without even asking to search.

    Think instead of bleating for a change.

    • jo blow says:

      sounds like you’re saying some in the fbi are biased..  the only difference is in terms of which way the bias goes – dem or repub.. how does anyone expect to get an unbiased view when they’re attached to a particular outcome and fixed in their political position? it is worse then reading tea leaves..

      • bmaz says:

        You are full of shit, and you are lying out your ass. The IG report specifically found that bias did NOT affect any decisions.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Your position is that they are biased against Kaiser Quisling (12:29) and the IG report says “no bias” but the NYC FBI office clearly had it in for HRC and leaked to Trump Campaign operative Ghouliani (who then gleefully broadcast it on Faux News), abetted by the NY Times (especially Cillizza).

        Bleat, bleat, bleat.  Try to think for a change.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Refer to the Digby post at 10:00:00 AM at for more proof of systemic NY Times bias (Lichtblau and Miller this time, but note the “info” came from the FBI NYC office which I must stress again had not even asked to search Abedin’s computer yet, much less read any emails), as well as an explainer on Nunes’ admission to Laura Ingraham.

          I’d be more impressed (and suspect bmaz, et al would be as well) if you actually provided proof of your claims instead of RWNJ bombthrowing and conspiracy theories.

  5. Willis Warren says:

    Yer buddy Chuck Rossier is always bringing up the “no big there there” bit, completely ignoring the June 9th meeting disclosure.  Chuck, if you’re reading, you’re a hack.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, Chuck Ross is a hack. And, like Andy McCarthy, a very big one. These assholes have just, by whiskers, enough perceived legitimacy to flood the market with consistent jackassery.

  6. TGuerrant says:

    Interesting that the IG comments on the FBI’s decision to pull agents from the HRC investigation right onto the Russia investigation. Having staff pivot from investigating one candidate to investigating the opposing candidate was unwise and, given the extent of the FBI’s resources, unnecessary.


  7. Rugger9 says:

    TGuerrant, I am not sure why you would say that since there was a string (IIRC Papadopoulos) that was pulled to link them.

    Since when is Kaiser Quisling off-limits, and why?

    • orionATL says:

      “…  Department’s Watchdog Is Investigating the FBI’s “Culture” of Leaks…

      DAN FRIEDMANJUN. 14, 2018 6:58 PM

      The FBI leaked like a sieve in 2016, and those disclosures helped Donald Trump, according to a newly released inspector general’s report on former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The 500-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz suggests anti-Clinton leaking from the bureau’s New York office likely influenced Comey’s decision to announce the resumption of the email probe less than two weeks before the presidential election—a step that may have thrown the race to Trump. The FBI could be in for a bloodbath over these leaks: Horowitz says his office plans to report on multiple investigations into extensive “unauthorized media contact by FBI personnel.”

      “We have profound concerns about the volume and extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered during our review,” the report says. Horowitz also writes that his office “identified instances where FBI employees improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events.”

      The report doesn’t say which agents allegedly accepted such benefits. But elsewhere it notes that senior FBI and DOJ officials were especially concerned about leaks from the bureau’s New York field office, many of which were damaging to Clinton. Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe—who himself was fired earlier this year in part for a lack of candor regarding disclosures to the press that he authorized—told the IG’s office that he was concerned about leaks from the New York office….”

      follow daily kos to souhpaw’s citation of this mother jones article.

      andrew mccabe was verbally harrassed repeatedly by president trump from jan, 2017. consequently, the very sensitive inspector general michael horowitz did a rapid investigation of mccabe that concluded he had lied to the fbi about leaking one matter to the media. this justified firing mccabe to mollify trump. well done, inspector horowitz.

      but what of the multi-agent, multi-occasion fbi media leaking described above? when will it get investigated, individuals named, punishments meted out if and where appropriate?

      the inspector general’s report was supposed to focus on the fbi and the clinton candidacy. it did focus on comey, but also focused on strozok messages which had no direct bearing on the clinton candidacy (because they had not occurred in the relevant time period). why the anachromism, inspector horowitz?

  8. orionATL says:

    the very bottom line is this:

    the republican party has stolen two presidential elections in the first 16 years of the 21st century.

    the first theft, in 2000, resulted in the presidency of george bush and dick cheney rather than al gore. the results, a series of wars in the middle east, a loss of privacy due to state’s surveillance, and failure to adequately regulate banks had disastrous results for american society.

    the second, in 2016,  resulted in the presidency of donald trump and mike pence rather than hillary clinton. the results, in a mere 1 1/2 years l, are similarly disastrous – the inflation of fedreal debt to exceptionally high levels to fund an ineffective corporate tax cut, the destruction of a program to provide medical insurance to americans without it, the destruction of long-standing  goverment programs to help the needy and the less wealthy, the disruption of world trade, the presidential stamp of approval  on various forms of  rascism, the use of immigrants as a foil for presidential propaganda, the use of a foreign power to win a presidential election, a frontal attack on public education, and acts of folly in foreign policy involving saudi arabia, israel, north korea, iran, mexico, canada, Western Europe, the nato alliance, and russia. 

    the republican party as it exists today is an extremely damaging entity in  american society.

    • Sabrina says:

      Very true and concise summary. If you look at both elections, but especially the 2016 one, the margins of victory in 3 states- PA, VA, and MI, I believe- strain credulity. Wins around the 1-1.5% range- low enough that it would be believable in a closely divided electorate as a fluke, yet high enough that it did not prompt a recount. The stats on state totals are statistically improbable, AND occurring in more than one state.

      I think that with all of the social factors you mentioned- voter suppression, disinformation, gerrymandering- I really believe there was some way of closely assuring those totals were within a tight margin. I don’t know if I buy that Trump didn’t want to win, which has been reported but is speculative at this point- it sounds EXACTLY like something he would want; plus, the resources diverted from Russia via the IRA trolling, hacking HRC voter rolls and uploading older address info (far harder to detect than deletion) seems like a lot of work for an unwinnable election from the outset.

      I don’t know. The jury is still out on what happened at the polls, from which voters were suppressed or prevented from voting, right down to who the ballot was actually cast for, and then the tallying of vote totals. Many steps available to introduce “human error” intentionally, and given what a boon this has been for Russia (and indeed, legitimizing all authoritarian regimes at the expense of democratic ones), this was either the luckiest election ever, or somehow they were ensuring all of their work would not be for nought. I can’t wait until the full extent of election interference is known, because right now, we don’t have a lot of hard data for vote totals for that election. I am hoping that it is something that is being looked into as part of the Russia probe, since it certainly seems noteworthy.

    • Valley girl says:

      I followed this closely at the time.  Yes, Blackwell and his nefarious deeds was a huge factor.  But, Kerry kept promising that he would challenge the Ohio outcome.  And kept collecting money to do so.  But, as it turned out,  Kerry made no move to challenge the Ohio election results, despite all his talk, talk, talk.  It’s impossible to know what would have been the outcome if Kerry had followed through on his promise.  So, I don’t think it’s a simple call.

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