Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who carried on an extramarital affair with ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok and exchanged anti-Trump text messages, broke her silence Monday in a lengthy interview with a friendly news outlet that pushed back against the Republican narrative she was involved in a “deep state” conspiracy.
“There’s no fathomable way I have committed any crime at all,” Ms. Page told The Daily Beast.
It was the latest in a series of moves by current and former FBI officials trying to mitigate the fallout from a report by Justice Department inspector general set to be released next week.
The moves include leaks about the IG report on allegations the FBI abused its authority to obtain a warrant for surveillance of a Trump campaign aide.
In one leak, The New York Times reported Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz absolved Obama-era FBI officials of wrongdoing.
In another leak late Monday, The Washington Post reported Attorney General William P. Barr disagreed with Mr. Horowitz’s purported key conclusion.
Political strategists say the effort to spin the report ahead of its Dec. 9 release is a sign that subjects of Mr. Horowitz’s probe are worried.
“The fact that The New York Times has already declared this report is not as bad as it could have been is the first shot across the bow,” said Fraser Seitel, a public relations consultant. “It was obviously leaked by liberal Democratic sympathizers trying to tamper down the negative impact of the report.”
In the interview, Ms. Page casts herself as a victim of President Trump, claiming he is trying to destroy her life. She also criticized Mr. Trump for mimicking a sexual liaison between her and Mr. Strzok, calling it demeaning.
“It’s almost impossible to describe,” she said of Mr. Trump’s criticism. “My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening.”
Ms. Page also denied wrongdoing and described the president’s rhetoric as intimidating.
“When the president accuses you of treason by name, despite the fact that I know there’s no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason, he’s still somebody in a position to do something about that,” she said. “To try to further destroy my life. It never goes away or stops, even when he’s not publicly attacking me.”
Pete Seat, vice president of public affairs at Bose Public Affairs Group and former spokesperson for President George W. Bush, called the Page interview a classic public relations move.
“Lisa Page would get attention regardless of when she did the interview, but she gets heightened attention now,” Mr. Seat said. “From a public relations and communications standpoint, she timed the release of her story to have maximum impact and exposure.”
The interview with Ms. Page was written by journalist Molly Jong-Fast, who last year called Mr. Strzok “hawt” — slang for “attractive” — in a tweet. In a June interview, Ms. Jong-Fast said she “cried every day” after Mr. Trump was elected, calling election night 2016 “the worst night” of her life.
Mr. Seitel said isn’t surprising that Ms. Page’s media team selected a friendly journalist for the interview.
“It’s understandable that she would go to a sympathetic reporter early on because you need to get a head start on this thing,” he said. “Once Horowitz releases his report, all bets are off. People are going to see what’s in there and you need to get out in a favorable way.”
The Post report said Mr. Barr opposed the inspector general’s purported finding that the FBI was justified in opening a probe into the Trump campaign months before the 2016 election. Mr. Barr is overseeing a separate investigation into the origins of the Russia probe led by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
Meanwhile, The New York Times said Mr. Horowitz’s report “contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters.”
Among the accusations the report refutes, according to The New York Times, are that the FBI put informants in Mr. Trump’s campaign and that the bureau was motivated by political bias when it sought to wiretap campaign aide Carter Page.
The Times also debunked a theory raised by Trump supporters that the FBI had nothing but a salacious unverified dossier when it tried to obtain the Page wiretap. Instead, it found there were “errors and omissions” in FBI officials’ attempts to get the wiretap warrant.
The Times said it did not see the draft, but based its report on sources familiar with its content. That is a red flag, according to Mr. Seitel.
“No one knows what the report is going to say, but I think one of the most shining indications that it could bad is that the fact that the Times, which is unequivocally a liberal newspaper, jumped out before anyone else to tamper down expectations of negativeness,” he said.
Mr. Seat called the leaks “public relations chapters one, two and three.”
“In the cutthroat world of political communications, selective leaks and pitching to preferred reporters puts the other side on the defense,” he said. “You want to be out in front and aggressive to make the other side defend what they are doing, right or wrong.”
The Justice Department cautioned Monday evening against speculating about the report’s contents.
“Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
As the clock ticks down to the report’s release, Mr. Seitel expects others likely to be named in the report to be more outspoken with the media.
Former FBI Director James B. Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who have already been the subjects of scathing inspector general reports, are among those he expects to be chatty.
“People like Andy McCabe and Jim Comey who will be featured prominently in this report have a lot on the line,” Mr. Seitel said. “They may well come out and try to skew public opinion one way or another.”
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