Former FBI attorney Lisa Page on Tuesday sued the FBI and the Justice Department over the leaking of her text messages that prompted a barrage of public attacks from lawmakers and President Donald Trump himself.
“I sued the Department of Justice and FBI today,” she wrote on Twitter. “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.”
The lawsuit accuses both agencies of violating the Privacy Act when reporters were given access to her messages with former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. The messages were originally part of two DOJ inspector general probes into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Page alleges that DOJ officials—including former spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores—invited a group of reporters in Dec. 2017 to view a 90-page document containing 375 text messages between her and Strzok. Senior department officials allegedly signed off on the move, and the journalists were told to not source the information back to the department.
According to Page, the messages were leaked because the department sought to “elevate DOJ’s standing with the President” amid his constant attacks on then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The timing of the leak was also allegedly important: Reporters gained access to the messages the day before ex-Deputy Attorney General Rod 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 lawsuit says.
Page also claims the officials who approved the disclosure, along with their allies, sought to use the texts to “promote the false narrative that Plaintiff 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.” Page and Strzok’s texts were, indeed, a constant topic of conversation in conservative media, especially on the Fox News shows—like Sean Hannity’s—that most fervently boost Trump.
The inspector general ultimately found that Page's text messages were not “evidence of bias affecting any investigative decisions” in the Clinton email and Russia interference probes. Despite this, the lawsuit claims Page has been subject to constant public attacks from Trump-aligned lawmakers and officials two years after the texts were initially disclosed to the media.
“[T]he President has targeted Ms. 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,” the lawsuit reads.
Page, who recently spoke to The Daily Beast in her first public interview since the messages were released, said the “sickening” barrage of presidential attacks have been like a punch “in the gut.” She lamented, “The President of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career.”
Page seeks damages of “not less than $1,000” in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.