Former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attorney Lisa Page filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Tuesday.
“I sued the Department of Justice [(DOJ)] and FBI today,” Page tweeted. “I take little joy in having done so. But what they did in leaking my messages to the press was not only wrong, it was illegal.”
The 23-page lawsuit alleges the FBI and DOJ unlawfully violated Page’s privacy by releasing hundreds of messages between the plaintiff and her ex-lover Peter Strzok to the press.
“The Privacy Act was enacted to protect individual privacy interests. Agency records can, and often do, contain highly sensitive personal information, including documentation of criminal history, medical records, financial transactions, personnel actions, private conversations, personal contacts, and other sensitive material.
“On December 12, 2017, [FBI and DOJ] violated the Privacy Act by unlawfully disclosing agency records pertaining to [Page]—namely, a 90-page document reflecting 375 text messages between [Page] and another FBI employee [Strzok]—to a group of reporters,” the lawsuit notes. “At the time, the messages were part of a larger set of materials under review by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General [(OIG)] for evidence of potential bias in the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for government communications.”
The lawsuit goes on to note that those disclosures occurred in the midst of an investigation—and accuses the agencies of securing their release in order to gin up a political controversy:
Although the OIG review was not yet complete, the officials who authorized the disclosure and their allies sought to use, and ultimately did use, the messages to promote the false narrative that [Page] and others at the FBI were biased against President [Donald] Trump, had conspired to undermine him, and otherwise had engaged in allegedly criminal acts, including treason.
The purpose of engineering such a controversy? Page says it was all for Trump‘s consumption and gratification.
“DOJ and/or FBI officials disclosed the messages to reporters for multiple improper reasons, including to elevate DOJ’s standing with the President following the President’s repeated public attacks of the Department and its head, Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III,” the lawsuit continues. “They did so by summoning DOJ beat reporters to the Department to review the messages at night, prohibiting the reporters from copying or removing the set of messages from the building, and instructing them not to reveal DOJ as the source. This clandestine approach is inconsistent with the disclosure of agency records for transparency purposes or to advance the public interest.”
As Law&Crime previously reported, the Trump administration has argued—in response to a separate lawsuit filed by Strzok—that DOJ’s OIG obtained the messages between the two FBI employees because they were sent by and stored on FBI-issued mobile devices. After that, the administration claims, the DOJ was bound to release the messages because of its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Those disclosures by DOJ to select journalists, however, only occurred after unidentified senior DOJ and/or FBI officials leaked the messages to the New York Times—eliciting congressional and broader media interest in their contents.
Page maintains those initial leaks were intended to harm her and to distract from the investigation then-in-progress by then special counsel Robert Mueller—and were timed to harm Mueller’s investigation as well.
The court filing notes:
In the second half of 2017, with both the Special Counsel’s investigation and OIG’s review of the Midyear investigation proceeding, the pressure on Attorney General Sessions and his Department continued to mount. The existence and content of the text messages remained unknown to the public. Senior DOJ officials knew about the messages, however, since OIG had disclosed their existence to both the Special Counsel’s Office and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in July 2017.
“On information and belief, between July and December 2017, DOJ officials notified White House personnel about the existence of the messages, and White House staff or associates subsequently contacted members of the media,” Page’s filing goes on to allege.
The lawsuit also notes that two separate OIG reports have dispensed with the idea that the back-and-forth between Page and Strzok rose to the level of untoward political bias—including the report issued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Monday. Additionally, Page points out, the OIG specifically termed those exchanges “personal in nature” and not rising to the level of politically important.
“Thus, neither of the two relevant OIG inquiries found any evidence of bias that affected investigative decisions as a result of Ms. Page’s participation in the investigation,” the lawsuit explains.
Page is requesting damages in excess of $1,000 and attorney’s fees.
[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]