August 20, 2020
"(Clinesmith) reported to disgraced anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok during the Clinton email investigation."
Kevin Clinesmith, former FBI lawyer, pleads guilty to falsifying Carter Page documents
Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty Wednesday to falsifying documents used to continue the surveillance of President Trump's 2016 campaign aide Carter Page.
“Guilty,” Clinesmith said when asked by a federal judge for a plea.
Clinesmith admitted to altering an email in early 2017 to say Mr. Page was not a source for the CIA when in fact he was. He told a federal judge Wednesday that he believed at the time the information he provided was accurate.
“At the time, I believed the information that I was providing in the email was accurate, but I am agreeing that the language that I entered into the email was not originally there, and that I inserted it in there,” he told the court.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who is overseeing the criminal case against Clinesmith, asked: “You intentionally altered the email to insert information that was not originally in the email?”“Yes, your honor,” Clinesmith responded.
He could face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 10.
Judge Boasberg accepted the government’s recommendation not to detain Clinesmith ahead of his sentencing, but did require him to surrender his passport and imposed travel restrictions.
The case against Clinesmith is the first brought by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was appointed last year by Attorney General William P. Barr to review the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
That probe, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, eventually morphed into former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Clinesmith, who provided legal advice to agents working both the Russia probe and the Hillary Clinton email investigation, admitted to altering an email in 2017 so the FBI could continue to monitor Mr. Page.
In early 2017, Clinesmith changed a document to say Mr. Page was not a source for the CIA, when he actually was. The assertion was used by the Justice Department to obtain the third Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for Mr. Page. Clinesmith's attorney said last week that his client regrets his actions and “understands what he did was wrong.”
Judge Boasberg, who is the presiding judge for the Foreign Intelligence Court [FISC], which was defrauded by Clinesmith, is also overseeing the criminal case. He asked attorneys on both sides if they wanted him to recuse himself because the FISC was a “victim” in this case. Neither the government nor the defense thought a recusal was warranted.
Clinesmith was first outed, although not directly named, in a report last year by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. He is identified in the report as “Office of General Counsel attorney,” but the report makes it clear he is the one who changed the email.
An FBI supervisory special agent told Mr. Howoritz’s team that investigators wanted a “definitive answer” to whether Mr. Page had ever been a source for another U.S. government agency before he signed the renewal application. While in contact with what appeared to be the FBI’s liaison to the CIA, Clinesmith was informed via email that Mr. Page was indeed a source for the CIA.
Clinsmith then altered the email by inserting the word “not” next to “source,” making it appear as if Mr. Page had no relationship with the CIA. Clinesmith had served as an attorney with the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch. He worked under former FBI General Counsel James Baker and reported to disgraced anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok during the Clinton email investigation.
In a July 2018 inspector general report on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, Clinesmith appears again, but not directly identified, as one of the FBI officials who showed a possible bias against Mr. Trump, along with Mr. Strzok and his mistress, ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Just hours after Mr. Trump’s presidential victory, Clinesmith lamented the win, saying “I am so stressed about what I could have done differently.” Weeks later, he texted “Viva la Resistance!” — a phrase used by anti-Trump activists. The July 2018 report claims that Clinesmith’s anti-Trump messages only reflected his personal views, but did not affect his work. Mr. Horowitz ultimately did not find if political bias influenced either investigation.