Q: Did former FBI attorney Lisa Page tell House lawmakers that China, not Russia, was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee?
A: There’s no evidence of that. Page’s attorney said stories making that claim are “completely false” and that Page testified that the “evidence demonstrated Russian interference in the election.”
A former FBI attorney’s recent testimony behind closed doors to lawmakers provided what some Republican representatives have described as new insight into two high-profile federal investigations: the one into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and whether there was coordination with the Trump campaign — and the now-closed probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
But that attorney, Lisa Page, did not provide a “revelation” that China, not Russia, was actually behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer network, according to her lawyer, who was present.
Stories and social media posts parroting that claim spread widely this week — including on YouTube and Facebook — following Page’s July 13 and July 16 interviews with members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees.
A July 17 story on the website True Pundit, citing unnamed “federal sources,” purported that “the embattled Page tossed James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Bill Priestap among others under the Congressional bus, alleging the upper echelon of the FBI concealed intelligence confirming Chinese state-backed ‘assets’ had illegally acquired former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 30,000+ ‘missing’ emails.”
“The Russians didn’t do it,” said the story, which was shared thousands of times on social platforms. “The Chinese did, according to well-placed FBI sources,” it added.
The website YourNewsWire.com republished that story, topping it with: “According to testimony given by Page during two days of closed-door House hearings, former bosses at the FBI instructed her to cover-up the fact that China, not Russia, hacked the DNC server.”
But Page didn’t say that, according to her attorney, who was with Page during the private interviews.
“These stories are completely false,” Amy Jeffress said in a statement provided to FactCheck.org. “In nearly ten hours of testimony before the Committees, Lisa did not say a single word about China hacking the DNC server, and this conspiracy theory about the FBI instructing her to cover up such a story is nonsense. Her testimony was consistent with the intelligence community’s unanimous assessment: the evidence demonstrated Russian interference in the election.”
It’s possible Congress will release a transcript of the testimony.
As Jeffress said, the false claim runs counter to what U.S. officials have found: that Russians interfered in the 2016 election, including by hacking the DNC computer network.
The U.S. Department of Justice last week indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for their roles in the computer hacking. The department’s July 13 press release said the Russians “engaged in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, and released that information on the internet under the names ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0’ and through another entity.”
A declassified intelligence report published in 2017 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made the determination that “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.”
Those findings were also supported by a bipartisan review conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee. A summary of the committee’s findings released in July called the 2017 report a “sound intelligence product.”
Page came to the attention of lawmakers after text messages exchanged between her and FBI agent Peter Strzok in 2016 were made public. The text messages, which were highly critical of then-candidate Trump, called into question the objectivity of Page and Strzok, both of whom had been assigned to the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III removed Strzok from the investigation in July 2017 after the texts were discovered during an internal investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general. Page, on the other hand, worked on the investigation in a 45-day temporary position, and was no longer assisting in the Russia probe when the texts were brought to the attention of the special counsel and the deputy attorney general.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
“A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election.” Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice. June 2018.
Beavers, Olivia. “House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day.” The Hill. 16 Jul 2018.
“Committee Findings on the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment.” U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 3 Jul 2018.
“Grand Jury Indicts 12 Russian Intelligence Officers for Hacking Offenses Related to the 2016 Election.” Press release, U.S. Department of Justice. 13 Jul 2018.
“Intelligence Community Assessment: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 6 Jan 2017.
Jeffress, Amy. Counsel for Lisa Page. Email statement provided to FactCheck.org. 20 Jul 2018.
Parkinson, John. “Republicans say they have new leads after interview with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.” ABC News. 16 Jul 2018.
Robertson, Lori. “Trump Misleads on IG Report.” FactCheck.org. 18 Jun 2018.