My colleague has some theories about why the iPhones of members of the special counsel’s office (SCO) ended up wiped and reset to factory settings.
My GUESS — and its 100% speculation — is that the discovery of the incriminating text messages between Strzok and Page, leading to Strzok’s removal from the investigation, was a “light bulb” moment for members of the SCO. They realized that they had no expectation of privacy in their communications with each other, and all the communications over their phones would be captured by normal DOJ procedures. Since the SCO operated outside normal DOJ oversight, I suspect that one or more of the more technologically literate among the SCO prosecutors suggested they install third-party apps such as Signal or WhatsApp to conduct secure text messaging outside DOJ monitoring.
Fair enough. But an interesting side story to this little drama is that at least one of those phones — belonging to Lisa Page — which was lost for more than a year and, when finally found, shown to have been wiped two weeks after she turned it in on her last day, was possibly never lost at all. The Epoch Times reports:
An official who worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation wrote in a recently released email that he or she was in possession of an iPhone belonging to Lisa Page three days after the former FBI lawyer’s last day on the job and at a time when the device was thought to have been lost.
But documents released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sept. 11 tell a different story, with three officials certifying that Page turned over her phone and one claiming to have been in possession of it.
“I have her phone and laptop,” an administrative officer with the initials LFW wrote in a July 17, 2017, email to Christopher Greer, an assistant director at the DOJ Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).
Beth McGarry, the executive officer at the special counsel’s office, told Greer in an email sent earlier in the day that Page “returned her mobile phone and laptop.”
On the same day, a property custodian officer, whose name is redacted in the documents, signed a form on which Page certified that she turned in her phone and the officer certified that “all government property has been returned or otherwise properly accounted for.”
Interestingly, neither Mueller’s office nor the DOJ had records showing who handled the phone after it was turned in, and a records officer noted she never received it on her records log.
But according to LFW, an official on Mueller’s team, they did have the phone within three days after Page turned it in, and a week and half before it was wiped. And a property custodian had Page sign a form saying she had turned it in.
Any messages between Page and Strzok during the six month gap in which there appears to be no communication between them are lost forever. But it sounds like Page’s SCO phone — at least initially — wasn’t.