Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page — who has been a frequent target of President Donald Trump's barbed tweets and comments — on Tuesday sued the Justice Department and the FBI over what she claims were illegal and "improper" disclosures to media outlets of her nearly 400 text messages with an FBI agent with whom she was having an affair.
Page's suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., says that text messages she exchanged with Peter Strzok were released by the Justice Department to reporters in December 2017 to promote a "false narrative" that she, Strzok and others at the FBI "had conspired to undermine" Trump illegally.
She also claims the texts were released in violation of the federal Privacy Act without her consent "to elevate" the Justice Department's standing with Trump "following the President's repeated public attacks of the Department and its head," then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The president blamed Sessions for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation of Trump and his presidential campaign bedeviled the Trump administration for more than two years.
Page's suit says that "many of these messages" that she exchanged with Strzok "involved matters that were 'of a personal nature, including discussions ... about their families, medical issues and daily events.'" Only about a quarter of the 375 messages screened by a department watchdog were considered "political," the suit said.
Page's suit came a day after the Justice Department's internal watchdog in a new report said she "did not play a role in the decision" by the FBI in 2016 to open a probe into the Trump's presidential campaign and into four members of the campaign. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found there was no evidence that political bias sparked the investigation.
Trump has argued that the bias against him by the married Page and Strzok as displayed in their private text messages played a key role in the FBI's decision to launch an investigation into whether associates of his campaign were coordinating with Russia in that nation's interference in the 2016 election.
"No. No he won't. We'll stop it," Strzok texted back.
Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation in mid-2017 after the special counsel became aware of his texts with Page. Strzok was fired by the FBI in 2018, but has filed a federal lawsuit of his own asking for reinstatement.
Page resigned in May 2018.
Page's text messages with Strzok were released "to a group of reporters" who regularly cover the Justice Department as part of a 90-page document by the Justice Department.
Officials summoned "reporters to the Department to review the messages at night, prohibiting the reporters from copying or removing the set of messages from the building, and instructing them not to reveal DOJ as the source," the suit said. "This clandestine approach is inconsistent with the disclosure of agency records for transparency purposes or to advance the public interest."
The officials who authorized their release "and their allies sought to use, and ultimately did use, the messages to promote the false narrative that [Page] and others at the FBI were biased against President Trump, had conspired to undermine him, and otherwise had engaged in allegedly criminal acts, including treason."
The suit says that at the time, the messages were part of a larger group of materials that was under review by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General "for evidence of potential bias in the FBI's investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server for government communications," the suit says.
Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Page, snidely referring to her as "lovely," and referenced her affair with Strzok.
The suit notes that Trump has targeted Page by name in more than 40 tweets and "dozens of interviews, press conferences, and statements from the White House, fueling unwanted media attention that has radically altered her day-to-day life."
"Peter, oh, I love you so much," Trump said at an October rally, imagining what Page would say to Strzok and he to her.
"I love you, Peter" ... "I love you, too, Lisa' ... "Lisa. Lisa. Oh, God, I love you, Lisa."
Page in a recent interview with The Daily Beast said that whenever Trump mentions her name on Twitter or at political rallies "it's like being punched in the gut." She called his attacks "sickening."
"My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again," Page told The Daily Beast. "The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He's demeaning me and my career. It's sickening."
"But it's also very intimidating because he's still the president of the United States," she said.
"And 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 actually do something about that. To try to further destroy my life. It never goes away or stops, even when he's not publicly attacking me."
Trump tweeted about Page shortly after the interview was published.