If you can’t keep up with the many probes going on surrounding the 2016 campaign, alleged Russia collusion, and alleged misbehavior by intel agencies, you’re not alone. Sharyl Attkisson sat down with Republican Congressman Jim Jordan who serves on two of the half-dozen bodies conducting investigations — and asked him to break it down.
Sharyl: How can this story be told in a simple way for Americans who have been hearing fringe discussion about it and haven't followed it closely?
Rep. Jim Jordan: Yeah I like to tell it through Peter Strzok, deputy head of, former deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI.
Peter Strzok and another FBI official, Lisa Page, were allegedly having an illicit affair during the 2016 campaign when they exchanged bitter, anti-Trump text messages, even as Strzok led investigations that stood to impact the election.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Peter Strzok said in one of those text messages, “We can't run the risk that the American people might make Donald Trump the next president. We need an insurance policy.” And that insurance policy plan, we've learned from some of those other text messages, I think involved leaking information to the press to further their narrative against the Trump candidacy.
Notably, Strzok led the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified email, interviewed Clinton without recording her, and softened a key phrase in the FBI decision to recommend no criminal charges.
Strzok also led the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election. Strzok interviewed Trump official Michael Flynn, who plead guilty to lying to the FBI. And Strzok served on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, investigating alleged Trump-Russia collusion.
Jordan says more key questions surround the anti-Trump file or dossier, leaked to the press before the election.
Sharyl: We've learned it wasn't an intelligence file at all, but opposition research compiled by a political firm. Did the FBI improperly use that to justify spying on Trump for political reasons?
Rep. Jim Jordan: I believe the FBI dressed it all up, made it look like legitimate intelligence took it to the FISA court to get warrants to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign, and through that spying, I think they got other names that were unmasked.
Sharyl: How much has our knowledge been advanced regarding Russia, the surveillance issue, Hillary Clinton email investigation, Trump investigation?
Rep. Jim Jordan: We know the DNC paid for the dossier.
Sharyl: The Democratic National Committee.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Democrat National Committee and the Clinton campaign, which we now know of course were one and the same. They paid for it. We know that there was at least what appears to be some group of people at the FBI based on the text messages that was this core group that looks like they set out to have a plan to hurt the Trump campaign helped the Clinton campaign.
Sharyl: None of this necessarily excludes the Trump administration or related officials from misconduct.
Rep. Jim Jordan: No.
Sharyl: So what are you finding on that score today?
Rep. Jim Jordan: Nothing, right? I mean to date there's been zero evidence that that the Trump campaign coordinated any kind of activity with Russia to impact the election.
Maybe not, but several former Trump campaign officials have been charged with other crimes.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are accused of money laundering and conspiracy stemming from their lobbying work for Russian interests dating back years. They've pleaded not guilty. George Papadopoulos and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
Sharyl: Could Mueller be finding thing that nobody's heard of that hasn't leaked out?
Rep. Jim Jordan: We don't know, we have to wait for his report. We're going to get a report, I think even before his, from the inspector general which will examine how the FBI handled the Clinton investigation in 2015 and 2016.
Sharyl: It turns out FBI official Peter Strzok figures into that, too. On January 19th, the FBI gave Congress a new batch of text messages between Strzok and his girlfriend that indicate some in the FBI made investigative decisions for political reasons.
“It's going to be a Clinton Trump race,” texted Page. “Unbelievable.” “What?!?!??”, replied Strzok. “Now the pressure really starts to finish, midyear exam [the FBI case name for Clinton email investigation]. Page replied, “It sure does.”
The texts also reveal the FBI first included, but later omitted, news that as Secretary of State, Clinton improperly used personal email to contact President Obama while abroad in the territory of sophisticated adversaries.
Sharyl: In the big picture why do these questions matter? If someone were to say to you, I don't know who all these people are that you're talking about?
Rep. Jim Jordan: Because you cannot have the Federal Bureau of Investigation trying to help one campaign at the expense of the other. That cannot happen in the greatest country in history, where you're having the premier law enforcement agency in the world saying we're going to have an insurance policy to make sure one candidate does not become the President of the United States. That is for we the people to decide. The American voters to decide. Not some super agent James Bond guy at the at the FBI named Peter Strzok and his cabal of people. That is never supposed to be how it works in the United States of America.
A few footnotes. To date, Strzok and Page have not been accused of wrongdoing. They were removed from the Russia investigation last summer—Strzok was reassigned to Human Resources. They and the FBI didn’t respond to our request for comment.