Former FBI attorney Lisa Page on Tuesday sued the Justice Department and FBI, accusing her former employers of violating her right to privacy by illegally leaking a cache of text messages she sent with a fellow FBI official.
Page became a target of frequent attacks by President Donald Trump and his supporters after the disclosure of anti-Trump texts she exchanged with former FBI agent Peter Strzok. Both Page and Strzok, who were engaging in an extramarital affair, got nicknames like "dirty cops" and the "lovers" from the president and became two faces of Trump's claims that the Russia probe was tainted by political bias within DOJ.
The lawsuit comes a day after the release of a second report from the department's independent watchdog that found neither person's political opinions played a role in the Russia probe or in the high-profile investigation into Hillary Clinton's personal email server, which Page and Strzok both participated in.
In the 23-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia nearly two years to the day after the disclosure in question, Page alleges DOJ and FBI violated the Privacy Act by sharing nearly 400 text messages with reporters on the night of Dec. 12, 2017, to alleviate pressure on the department by Trump and his allies in Congress.
That night, the department summoned reporters to its D.C. headquarters after hours and let the media view a tranche of 375 text messages, barring them from making copies or removing the messages and from disclosing the source of the materials.
In a tweet announcing the lawsuit, Page expressed dismay over having to sue her former employers. "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," she wrote.
A DOJ spokesperson declined comment on the suit.
Page accuses DOJ of sharing the trove of messages at a curious time: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was set to testify the next morning before the House Judiciary Committee. He was expected to be grilled over a lack of response to oversight requests by Republicans who were assailing DOJ "for failing to vigorously pursue what the members viewed as evidence of a 'witch hunt' against President Trump," the lawsuit claims.
The department had already been subject to an onslaught of verbal attacks from Trump, who'd fired FBI Director James Comey earlier that year and was constantly berating Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself for the Russia probe. Page alleges that by sharing the messages with reporters, DOJ aimed "to influence the public reception" of Rosenstein's testimony the next day as well as "ingratiate" Sessions and his department with the president.
Moreover, the suit claims, the texts would "dominate coverage of the hearing, which otherwise could be unfavorable for the Department. And the Department could achieve all of this at the relatively low cost (in the Department's view) of the privacy of two FBI employees: Ms. Page, a longtime DOJ and FBI attorney, and Mr. Strzok, a career FBI agent."
Page also points out that the 375 messages, turned over as part of the first inspector general report, had been preliminarily flagged as political in nature but that only a quarter of them were eventually deemed relevant to the June 2018 report that cleared Page of letting her political opinions impact her work.
"In the two years since the December 12 disclosure, the President has targeted Ms. Page by name in more than 40 tweets and dozens of interviews, press conferences, and statements from the White House," the suit states, "fueling unwanted media attention that has radically altered her day-to-day life."
Page's lawsuit ticks off a litany of insults leveled at her by the president over the last two years, including labeling her as "incompetent," "corrupt," "pathetic," "stupid," a "dirty cop," a "loser," a "clown," "bad people," "sick people," a "lover," a "great lover," a "wonderful lover," a "stupid lover," and "lovely."
She resigned from the FBI in 2018, prior to the release of the IG report on the Clinton email investigation, and has remained under the radar since, aside from appearing behind closed doors before Congress and sitting for interviews for the Russia inspector general's report.
Strzok was fired from the FBI several months later, and sued DOJ and FBI over his dismissal back in August. Another subject of Trump's frequent attacks on law enforcement officials, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, has also sued the department for improper dismissal.
Page broke her two-year silence earlier this month, in a lengthy interview with The Daily Beast, declaring that after Trump engaged in a crude impression of her relationship with Strzok that it was "time to take my power back."
She used the occasion of Monday's inspector general report to claim vindication, despite watchdog Michael Horowitz faulting the FBI with significant missteps while ultimately being on solid footing in opening the Russia probe.
"The sum total of findings by IG Horowitz that my personal opinions had any bearing on the course of either the Clinton or Russia investigations? Zero and Zero," she wrote in a tweet.