FBI's McCabe, Page texted several times about anti-Trump stories during 2016 election

Senators accused FBI Director Wray of withholding more relevant evidence after belated disclosure of new text messages.

Updated: October 13, 2020 - 4:36pm

Then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe texted several times during the 2016 election about anti-Trump stories in the news media, according to new messages released by Senate investigators that show the bureau brass was on a first-name basis with reporters driving the now-discredited Russia collusion narrative.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a new letter to FBI Director Chris Wray they just got the text messages from a subpoena two months ago, accusing the bureau of withholding far more information about the 2016 election just three weeks before Election Day 2020.

"It is simply unacceptable that we have waited so long to receive so little," the senators wrote in a letter Monday. "The 24 pages of McCabe text messages that the FBI did produce include notable information that is highly relevant to several aspects of the Committees' oversight efforts."

The letter reveals some of the first text messages that were exchanged during the Russia probe between McCabe and Lisa Page, an ex-FBI counsel who was assigned to the deputy director. The texts, disclosed in the letter, show several conversations about leaked stories unfavorable to Trump on the now-discredited Russia collusion probe.

For instance, Page alerted McCabe to an Oct. 31, 2016 story in Slate magazine suggesting there was a secret communications channel between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Alfa Bank. The FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller and a British court have all dismissed that allegation as an unproven conspiracy theory. Here's the exchange:

Page: "Christ. A LOT of articles tonight. MJ published, lots about MYE, and an allegation about a PI on Manafort."

McCabe: "MJ? Kelly File was really rough on me."

Page: "Mother Jones. Re western intel source reporting on trump. … I didn't watch. … It's the first time you've really come up since last sunday. Thought Devlin's piece was pretty benign."

Page: "And the alphabank(sic) story is in slate."

McCabe: "Awesome."

The fact that McCabe appeared to be applauding a now-disproven anti-Trump story a week before Election Day 2016 has caught Senate investigators' attention.

So too did an earlier exchange between Page and McCabe back in July 2016, just a few days before the FBI opened the Crossfire Hurricane probe targeting the Trump campaign. In that exchange, they discussed a Lawfare blog article suggesting Trump was an agent of Russia, an allegation eventually ruled out by Mueller's probe. Page actually included a link to the story. Here's the exchange:

Page: "You should read this – the D surely has by now. Some of the internal links are well worth your time as well. Is Trump a Russian Agent? A legal Analysis – Lawfare." 

McCabe: "Thanks much."

Though McCabe's boss, fired Director James Comey, often insisted his FBI didn't leak, the text messages showed some reporters had McCabe's cell phone number and texted him on a first name basis.

Several New York Times reporters, including Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, texted McCabe on the weekend of Oct. 29, 2016, right as Comey had announced he was re-opening Hillary Clinton's email investigation because new evidence was discovered on the hard drive of former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Matt Apuzzo:  "Hey I know you don't want to field calls. But Goldman and I are together and really need to talk. This thing is spiraling out of control."

The next day, on October 30, 2016, McCabe got a text from Goldman and responded.

Adam Goldman:  "Andy, matt and I are together. Can we chat briefly. I apologize. I know it is Sunday."

McCabe: "Can't do it. I have no comments on anything."

Goldman: "Understand. Thanks."

Goldman pinged McCabe again on Nov. 1, 2016 with this text: "Hi. Matt and I have new information that puts a lot of stuff specifically in your world into context. Can you spare 10 minutes or a coffee. We think it is important."

Whatever else Senate investigators turn up, the latest text messages show the highest levels of the FBI were trading in anti-Trump stories and in contact with liberal news organizations driving the narrative at the same time the bureau was pursuing the Russia collusion investigation that has since been discredited.