The US Department of Justice has found several months of text messages between two FBI agents on the team investigating alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote a letter to Senators Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The messages, text exchanges between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, were thought to be missing.
The texts have been touted as proof by President Donald Trump’s supporters as evidence of bias against him on the FBI investigation team led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller who are looking into alleged collusion between Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.
Mr Johnson had actually suggested a “whistleblower” confirmed at least one text exchange between Mr Strzok and Ms Page revealed the existence of a “secret society” in the bureau out to undermine Mr Trump.
He had been referring to what appeared to be an inside joke among colleagues; Ms Page had texted Mr Strzok: "Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.”
Mr Johnson has since backed off the claims since the texts have been recovered.
The messages - Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at least 50,000 messages were exchanged between the pair - appeared to have been missing due to a technical error on thousands of FBI-issued phones.
“The [Office of the Inspector General] has been investigating this matter, and, this week, succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices,” Mr Horowitz’ letter said.
Mr Strzok had been removed from the investigation team around the time a batch of 375 text messages between he and Ms Page were handed over to Congress weeks ago.
He reportedly called Mr Trump an “idiot” in the exchanges.
A batch of 1,00 more messages between the two were handed over late last week, when it was revealed that the batch from December 2016 to May 2017 was missing.
In the wake of the revelation, Mr Trump took to Twitter: “In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts. Wow.”
There is no evidence Mr Strzok and Ms Page were romantically involved.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had dismissed the suggestion that Mr Mueller himself is biased against Mr Trump.
He insisted no one else is "better qualified for this job" than Mr Mueller. He also noted that having an affiliation with a political party is different from an actual bias.
"We recognise we have employees with political opinions. It's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions," Mr Rosenstein said to the House.
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