Flashback: Obama Insists He Doesn’t Get Involved in FBI Investigations
Today Fox News reported that President Obama sought to "know everything" about an FBI probe despite previously making a "guarantee" he doesn't speak to the FBI about "pending investigations."
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) released a new batch of text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, one of which mentions President Obama wanting to "know everything" about an FBI investigation.
The exchange is as follows:
STRZOK: “Checkout my 9:30 mtg on the 7th.”
PAGE: “I can tell you why you’re having that meeting. It’s not what you think.”
STRZOK: “TPs [talking points] for D [Comey]?”
PAGE: “Yes, bc potus wants to know everything we are doing.”
But in an April 2016 interview on Fox News Sunday, then-President Obama said he "guaranteed" he was staying out of the FBI probe.
"I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations," Obama told Chris Wallace. "I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line and always have maintained it --"
Asked to assure the American people the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton would be treated no differently than anyone else, Obama was emphatic: "I guarantee it. I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case but in any case. Full stop. Period."
Here's a transcript of the exchange:
WALLACE: "Mr. President, when you say what you just said -- what Josh Earnest said as he did, your spokesman, in January -- 'the information from the Justice Department is that she's not a target,' some people, I think, are worried whether or not the decision, whether or not how to handle the case, will be decided on political grounds, not legal grounds. Can you guarantee to the American people, can you direct the Justice Department to say, 'Hillary Clinton will be treated as the evidence goes, she will not in any way be protected.'"
OBAMA: “I can guarantee that. I can guarantee that not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive, that is institutionally how we have always operated. I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line and always have maintained it --"
WALLACE: "--So, just to button this up --"
OBAMA: "I guarantee it. I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case but in any case. Full stop Period."
WALLACE: "-- And she will be treated no differently?--"
OBAMA: "Guaranteed, full stop, period. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department because nobody is above the law.”
WALLACE: “Even if she ends up as the Democratic nominee?”
OBAMA: “How many times do I have to say it, Chris? Guaranteed.”
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports "associates of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page" say the text was in reference to the FBI's Russia probe, not Clinton's email investigation, as Fox News had originally reported.
Fox News meanwhile reports there there was a Clinton probe matter the FBI was managing during this time period:
Also on Sept. 2, 2016, though, the FBI released a full transcript – with redactions – of its interview with Hillary Clinton as part of the email probe, along with a memo summarizing the bureau’s investigation of her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
After the mention of “potus,” Strzok alerted Page to “NYTimes.com breaking,” which could have been the report, “FBI Papers Offer Closer Look at Hillary Clinton Email Inquiry.”
UPDATE 2: Grabien News just scanned the headlines of clips we posted on September 2, 2016, the day this text message was sent. The story getting the most attention was Hillary Clinton's FBI testimony, which revealed she'd repeatedly claimed she "couldn't recall" several questions related to her server. See CNN's sample report here.