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Two ex-FBI officials who traded anti-Trump texts close to settlement over alleged privacy violations

They claim their privacy was violated when the Justice Department leaked their disparaging text messages about former President Donald Trump to the news media.

WASHINGTON — Two former FBI officials have reached a tentative settlement with the Justice Department to resolve claims that their privacy was violated when the department leaked to the news media text messages that they had sent one another that disparaged former President Donald Trump.

The tentative deal was disclosed in a brief court filing Tuesday that did not reveal any of the terms.

Peter Strzok, a former top FBI counterintelligence agent who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was fired in 2018 after the anti-Trump text messages came to light. Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer, voluntarily resigned that same year.

Lisa Page, former legal counsel to former FBI Director Andrew Mc Cabe, arrives on Capitol Hill on July 16, 2018.
Lisa Page, former legal counsel to former FBI Director Andrew McCabe, arrives on Capitol Hill in 2018. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images file

They alleged in federal lawsuits filed in the District of Columbia that the Justice Department infringed on their privacy rights when officials, in December 2017, shared copies of their communication with reporters — including messages that described Trump as an “idiot” and a “loathsome human” and that called the prospect of a Trump victory “terrifying.”

Strzok also sued the department over his termination, alleging that the FBI caved to “unrelenting pressure” from Trump when it fired him and that his First Amendment rights were violated. Those constitutional claims have not been resolved by the tentative settlement, according to the court notice.

Trump, who publicly championed Strzok’s firing and accused him of treason, was questioned under oath last year as part of the long-running litigation.

The text messages were discovered by the Justice Department inspector general’s office as it scrutinized the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Strzok was a lead agent in that probe as well, and he notes in his lawsuit that the inspector general found no evidence that political bias tainted the email investigation. Even so, the text messages resulted in Strzok being removed from the special counsel team conducting the Trump-Russia investigation and helped drive criticism by Trump that the inquiry was a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

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The inspector general identified numerous flaws with that probe but did not find evidence that any of those problems could be attributed to partisan bias.

Lawyers for Strzok and Page declined to comment Tuesday night. A Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment, but the department has previously said that officials determined that it was permissible to share with the media text messages that were also disclosed to members of Congress.

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