DOJ: Texts between Strzok and Page not preserved due to glitch in thousands of FBI devices

WASHINGTON – Thousands of FBI-issued phones have been affected by a glitch in the bureau's information management system that failed to preserve text messages during a five month period ending last May, two Justice Department officials said Wednesday.

The breakdown was first discovered during a search of communications exchanged between two bureau officials who had been assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election, said the officials who are not authorized to comment publicly about the matter.

That search, conducted by the Justice Department's inspector general, led to the removal of counter-intelligence agent Peter Strzok, whose text exchanges with colleague Lisa Page included disparaging references to President Trump.

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A review of the existing texts revealed that the FBI system not only failed to preserve the texts between Strzok and Page but also texts messages related to thousands of other bureau-issued devices between December 2016 and May 2017.

Aside from the system breakdown, Republican lawmakers have seized on the text communications to question the credibility of Mueller's continuing inquiry into possible coordination between Russia and Trump campaign and subsequent obstruction of justice by the president.

The lawmakers also have used the texts to hammer more broadly at the credibility of the FBI and its work on the Mueller probe.

A number of congressional panels have requested the text communications between Strzok and Page to examine whether Mueller's investigation is biased against Trump. The texts were first discovered last summer by the Justice inspector general who is in the midst of a wide-ranging review of the department's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged the information system failure related to the Strzok and Page communications, indicating that the inspector general was reviewing the cause of the breakdown.

The two Justice officials said Wednesday that the inspector general is now reviewing the broader system failure to include the thousands of other FBI-issued phones.

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