WASHINGTON (CN) – The Justice Department's internal watchdog announced Thursday his office has found missing text messages from an FBI agent removed last summer from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team.
In a letter to Congress, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office "succeeded in using forensic tools" to recover messages exchanged by FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page between December 2016 and May 2017.
“Our effort to recover any additional text messages is ongoing,” Horowitz wrote in a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., “We will provide copies of the text messages that we recover from these devices to the Department so that the Department’s leadership can take any management action it deems appropriate.”
Grassley is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Johnson chairs the Homeland Security Committee.
The department last month began providing lawmakers with copies of text communications to and from the counterintelligence agent who was reassigned from Mueller's team following the discovery of anti-Donald Trump messages he traded with an FBI lawyer.
The president has fumed about the missing messages and has said they represent "one of the biggest stories in a long time."
Republican lawmakers who have been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation had roundly criticized the Justice Department after it was revealed some 50,000 text messages were unaccounted for, suggesting it proved a political bias against the president within the FBI’s ranks.
Some of the messages that were previously found are said to be critical of Trump, while others were allegedly supportive of his Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton.
The FBI first told to the DOJ that messages were missing due a technical glitch impacting several employees at the agency.
On Tuesday, the president stoked curiosity and criticism over the missing texts, tweeting, “Where are the 50,000 important text messages between FBI lovers Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. Blaming Samsung!”
The newly discovered message were exchanged during a period shortly before Trump's inauguration and the president's firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
The FBI did not immediately respond to request for comment on Horowitz's letter on Thursday. A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the inspector general's investigation, referring a reporter back to the letter.