Two days after allegations of infiltrating the Trump transition team were first made known through text messages between former FBI official Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the man accused, Josh Pitcock, has denied any and all alleged involvement.
As BizPac Review reports, Pitcock released a statement where he claims there was “no infiltration through me or my wife. Any assertions or speculation to the contrary is unfounded, uninformed and 100% false.”
In Pitcock’s statement, he explains he worked with Mike Pence before he was tapped by Trump to join the presidential ballot as his vice president. Pitcock’s wife was working with the FBI on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. The moment Pence joined the Trump campaign, she had recused herself from any further involvement with the investigation.
“Her recusal continued after the campaign ended, through the Transition and during the Administration, and she was not a part of any counter-intelligence division activities having to deal with Russia or the President,” Pitcock wrote in his statement via BizPac Review.
“With regard to the reference in the texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page about “Katie’s husband,” to be very clear, I have no knowledge of what Strzok and Page were discussing or why,” Pitcock continued.
He added: “I had no contact with either Strzok or Page during the 2016 campaign, the Transition, or while serving at the White House. I took zero actions on their behalf.”
From BizPac Review:
A report by investigative reporter Sara Carter found that GOP Senate leaders submitted a letter to Attorney General William Barr containing newly revealed texts between Strzok and Page suggesting efforts to spy on the transition team from within. Carter’s analysis surmises that former Mike Pence chief of staff Pitcock was a target for their infiltration plan.
Barr has said that he intends to examine whether the FBI’s 2016 surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition was legal.
The new intriguing texts show Strzok and Page wondering if the husband of “Katie” could be recruited to find officials on the Trump team who the two could “develop for potential relationships.” Carter found that the Katie referred to could be the wife of Pitcock, Katherine Seaman, who is currently an FBI employee and was an analyst working for Strzok’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server crimes. Seaman recused herself from that work in the summer of 2016 when Trump and Pence accepted the Republican nomination.
Thursday on “Hannity,” President Trump stated that the messages are “very disconcerting.” He said that if “(Strzok and Page) are trying to infiltrate the administration, really, it’s a coup, it’s spying, it’s everything you can imagine. It’s a disgrace, and again, hopefully the attorney general will do what’s right, and I really believe he will.”
As Axios reports, Pence is taking the issue very seriously and has demanded an investigation into attempts to infiltrate Trump’s transition team:
- “I was deeply offended to learn that two disgraced FBI agents considered infiltrating our transition team by sending a counter intelligence agent to one of my very first intelligence briefings only 9 days after the election,” Pence said in a statement to Axios. “This is an outrage and only underscores why we need to get to the bottom of how this investigation started in the first place.”
- “The American people have a right to what happened and if these two agents broke the law and ignored long-standing DOJ policies, they must be held accountable.”
Between the lines: It’s unclear from the text messages what the FBI officials’ motive was — and there’s no direct evidence that the two former FBI officials were talking about Pitcock or his wife. As the Washington Post points out, that’s a connection made by an independent reporter and frequent Hannity guest who he cited on his show.
- Strzok didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The backstory: Grassley and Johnson sent the letter to Barr Thursday with a tip to aid his review of the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign.
- They cited an exchange between Strzok and Page shortly after the election, in which “the two discussed staffing for a November 2016 FBI briefing for presidential transition team staff.”
- At one points Strzok refers to a “CI guy,” counterintelligence: “He can assess if thete [sic] are any news [sic] Qs, or different demeanor. If Katie’s husband is there, he can see if there are people we can develop for potential relationships,” the message reads.
- Grassley and Johnson then wrote that “The nature of these communications, and the precise purpose of any attempts to ‘develop relationships’ with Trump or Pence transition team staff are not immediately clear.”
According to BizPac Review, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson formally requested Attorney General William Barr to look into any infiltration attempts.
“The nature of these communications, and the precise purpose of any attempts to ‘develop relationships’ with Trump or Pence transition team staff are not immediately clear,” the senators wrote in a letter sent to Barr. “Were these efforts done to gain better communication between the respective parties, or were the briefings used as intelligence gathering operations?
“Further, did any such surveillance activities continue beyond the inauguration, and in the event they did, were those activities subject to proper predication?” they continued. “Any improper FBI surveillance activities that were conducted before or after the 2016 election must be brought to light and properly addressed.”