The Wall Street Journal editorial pages have emerged as one of the President Donald Trump's staunchest allies in his efforts to undermine the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
On Monday, the Journal excoriated Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI for withholding information from Congress about the firing of a top agent who reportedly sent anti-Trump messages.
Mueller reassigned a top FBI agent, Peter Strzok, over the summer after it was discovered that Strzok had sent anti-Trump text messages, The New York Times reported over the weekend. Strzok led the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server and held a top role in the Russia probe, which Mueller has been leading since Trump fired former FBI director James Comey.
RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.
Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.
Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.
R. James Woolsey
Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil.
(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”
Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.
Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.
Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.
Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.
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"Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department kept this information from House investigators, despite Intelligence Committee subpoenas that would have exposed those texts," the Journal wrote in an editorial published Monday. "They also refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok's dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview."
The Journal also takes issue with the fact that the woman who Strzok reportedly exchanged the text messages with, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, worked for Mueller and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.
"All of this reinforces our doubts about Mr. Mueller's ability to conduct a fair and credible probe of the FBI's considerable part in the Russia-Trump drama," they wrote. "Mr. Mueller ran the bureau for 12 years and is fast friends with Mr. Comey, whose firing by Mr. Trump triggered his appointment as special counsel. The reluctance to cooperate with a congressional inquiry compounds doubts related to this clear conflict of interest."
The editorial called upon Mueller to step down "in favor of someone more credible."
It's not the first time the Journal's editorial board has called for Mueller's oust. In one October editorial, the board questioned Mueller's credibility and called for an investigation into whether Democrats and the FBI colluded with Russia, rather than Trump.
"It is no slur against Mr. Mueller's integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years," the editorial said. "He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest."
In another piece, the board reacted to news that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was being charged in connection with Mueller's probe by saying that "the main charge against Donald Trump is poor judgment for hiring the notorious Beltway operator."
In addition to the seething editorials, the newspaper has also published a series of opinion pieces from contributors attacking the Mueller probe, including one that accused the investigation of "imperil[ing] the rule of law."
The Journal board's conservative lean has been long-documented, but the election of Trump has reportedly created an internal newsroom struggle about how to cover the presidency, particularly as Mueller's investigation has ramped up. Reports have surfaced that some staff are frustrated with Gerard Baker, the editor-in-chief, who is said to have pushed more commentary that's defensive of the president.