Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page sued her old employers Tuesday, charging they unlawfully released inflammatory text messages between her and FBI agent Peter Strzok in order to redirect Republican anger from top officials at the Department of Justice.
"I sued the Department of Justice and FBI today. I take little joy in having done so. But what they did in leaking my messages to the press was not only wrong, it was illegal," Page tweeted Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed one day after the Justice Department's inspector general found Page "did not play a role in the decision" to open an investigation into the Trump campaign's involvement with Russia in the 2016 election, despite President Donald Trump having tweeted that she's one of the people "who started the disgraceful Witch Hunt."
Page resigned in May of last year. The suit says the torrent of attacks from the president and his allies has caused her "permanent loss of earning capacity due to reputational damage" and cost her an undisclosed amount in legal and therapy fees.
In papers filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., Page suggests she was intentionally made a scapegoat for Trump's anger at the Russia investigation to the benefit of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Strzok and Page first made headlines in December of 2017, when it was announced they'd been removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation because of text messages that had been critical of the president, including calling him "a loathsome human."
Republican members of Congress demanded to see the texts and the DOJ decided to oblige, even though they were being investigated by the DOJ's inspector general, the suit says. The DOJ decided to release them to the press the night before Rosenstein was set to testify before Congress.
"Disclosure of the text messages before Rosenstein’s hearing would serve multiple goals: it would protect the Deputy Attorney General from criticism during his testimony; it would show that the Department was addressing matters of concern to the President; and it would dominate coverage of the hearing, which otherwise could be unfavorable for the Department," the suit says, with the only cost being Page's and Strzok's privacy.
The night before the hearing, "DOJ officials, including then-DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores, summoned a select group of reporters to the Department’s offices. There, they allowed the reporters to view the 375 text messages. The reporters were told they were not permitted to remove or copy the messages and could not source the messages to DOJ," the suit says, noting the procedures were not "routine."
"Reporters were admitted to the building to view the text messages after close of business," the suit says, adding that subterfuge was designed to make it look like the messages were leaked by members of Congress and not the DOJ.
Rosenstein acknowledged the messages had been released by the DOJ during his Dec. 13, 2017, testimony.
Two separate inspector general reports found that Page's opinions about the president hadn't had an impact on her work at the FBI, but the DOJ's "unlawful conduct" had already turned Page into "a subject of frequent attacks by the President of the United States, as well as his allies and supporters. In the two years since the December 12 disclosure, the President has targeted Ms. Page by name in more than 40 tweets and dozens of interviews, press conferences, and statements from the White House."
Trump, the suit notes, "has referred to Ms. Page as “incompetent,” “corrupt,” “pathetic,” “stupid,” a “dirty cop,” a “loser,” a “clown,” “bad people,” “sick people,” a “lover,” a “great lover,” a “wonderful lover,” a “stupid lover,” and “lovely.” He has called the text messages a “disaster” and an “embarrassment.” He has accused Ms. Page of treason and other crimes."
The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages for violating the federal privacy act, but "not less than $1,000."
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.