No evidence 19,000 text messages between FBI officials destroyed
CLAIM: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office deleted 19,000 text messages between former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A report by the Justice Department’s watchdog found no evidence that text messages between Strzok and Page were intentionally destroyed.
THE FACTS: The unfounded claim that thousands of text messages between the former FBI lawyer and agent were purposely deleted resurfaced following the publication Sunday of an interview Page gave to the The Daily Beast.
Strzok was fired in 2018 from his post as an FBI agent over anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with Page, who resigned from her position at the agency. Both worked on the probe into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email server in 2016.
The Justice Department inspector general reviewed a gap in text messages sent between December 2016 through May 2017 from the Samsung Galaxy phones issued to Strzok and Page.
The inspector general’s December 2018 report found no evidence the text messages were intentionally deleted by Mueller or any other Justice Department employee. The review concluded that large portions of FBI text messages were not archived because of an FBI-wide software failure.
When Strzok and Page returned the phones issued to them, both were reset to factory setting and had no content from their use. The FBI ultimately managed to recover thousands of the messages.
Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have previously suggested the messages were intentionally deleted by the FBI or Mueller himself.
Upon discovering the anti-Trump text messages, Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s presidential campaign.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536