President Donald Trump went on Twitter Saturday to put forward a story line that is clearly misleading, pushing an argument that makes a software error sound like a grand anti-Trump conspiracy theory. Considering his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, did the same thing, it all looked like part of a coordinated strategy to plant doubts about the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“Wow, 19,000 Texts between Lisa Page and her lover, Peter S of the FBI, in charge of the Russia Hoax, were just reported as being wiped clean and gone,” Trump tweeted. “Such a big story that will never be covered by the Fake News. Witch Hunt!”
A few hours earlier, Giuliani had put forward a similar message in a tweet. “How can Mueller’s gang get away with erasing over 19,000 texts of Trump haters Stroyk and Page? They say it was DOJ policy to destroy evidence? I guess Mueller’s angry Democrats fall under the Hillary exception to obstruction of justice. She erased over 30,000 emails,” Giuliani wrote, misspelling Strzok’s name. He then published five more tweets on the issue (including two he sent twice for some reason), often linking to conservative news outlets.
The problem with these tweets? They just aren’t true. An investigation by the Justice Department’s watchdog said the missing texts had nothing to do with any kind of malicious intent by former investigators Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. Instead, the missing texts— thousands of which were ultimately recovered by the way—had to do with a technology failure by the software the FBI used to sweep up the messages. The report by the inspector general said there was no evidence either Strzok nor Page purposefully tried to get around any kind of protocol by deleting messages. Strzok and Page have both since left the FBI.