(CNN) -- The text message between two FBI employees that launched days of Republican speculation about a "secret society" contains a reference to a gag gift of Vladimir Putin-themed calendars that one of the employees purchased for those working on the early stage of the Russia investigation, sources familiar with the exchange tell CNN. The sources added that the message between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok was simply an attempt at humor when they were feeling down after the election, with one source calling it a tongue-in-cheek reference. One source said the calendar joke seemed less funny to them the day after Donald Trump won. Before the context of the "secret society" reference was made clear, conservatives had seized on the exchange as potential evidence of an anti-Trump bias at the FBI. Strzok was a member of the FBI team investigating Hillary Clinton's email server and, later, a member of Robert Mueller's special counsel operation looking into Russia's attempted interference in the 2016 election. "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," Page wrote to Strzok in the message, which CNN has viewed and was first reported by ABC News.
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