It sounded pretty nefarious when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) brought it up on Fox News Tuesday night — a "secret society" at the FBI that an "informant" told him about. Other Republican lawmakers fanned the flames, and some Fox personalities sloshed fuel on the fire, none of them knowing exactly what this "secret society" was but only that it was mentioned in a text message between FBI officials and conservative bêtes noires Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
The text in question, ABC News reported Wednesday night, was from Page, sent on the day after President Trump was elected, and it says this: "Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society." The text message is one of more than 1,000 between Page and Strzok that the Justice Department gave the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday, and it "stands alone in the series of messages obtained by ABC News — with no apparent tie to other messages sent before or after it," ABC News said.
Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, walked back his "secret society" tease Wednesday, saying "that's Strzok and Page's term" and acknowledging he doesn't know what happened at the "off-site" meetings his "whistleblower" told him about. "Everything I take with a grain of salt," he said. "I've heard from an individual that ... there was a group of managers within the FBI that were holding meetings off-site," so "when Strzok and Page had described a secret society, that didn't surprise me because I had corroborating information."
He did not explain why Page and Strzok would have violated the first rule of secret societies: You don't talk about the secret society on government-issued cellphones, not even in obvious jest.