Politics & Policy

Ex-FBI Lawyer Clinesmith Given Probation after Admitting He Doctored Email in Trump Probe

J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building in Washington, D.C. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email that he used to apply for a FISA warrant against former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page, was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service on Friday.

In August, Clinesmith pleaded guilty to “one count of making a false statement within both the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the U.S. government, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.”

Clinesmith’s is the first criminal case to arise from now-Special Counsel John Durham’s probe into the Trump-Russia investigation.

In a court filing last month, Durham asked the judge to sentence Clinesmith to a prison sentence of up to six months — a jail term “between the middle and upper end” of the recommended sentence for the crime of making false statements in writing.

Clinesmith’s attorneys argued that probation would be more appropriate.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty on August 19 to changing a June 2017 email which was originally sent to him by the CIA and which he was forwarding to the FISA Court, to make it seem as though the agency did not consider Page an intelligence source, though Page had served as an “operational contact” for the agency from 2008 to 2013.

The former FBI lawyer told the court that he had altered the email, but he believed Page was not a source.

“At the time I believed the information I was providing in the email was accurate, but I am agreeing that the information I inserted into the email was not already there,” Clinesmith said.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said that Clinesmith’s behavior had undermined the integrity of the FISA Court.

“Courts all over the country rely on representations from the government, and expect them to be correct,” Boasberg said.

However, the judge said he agreed with an earlier finding by the Justice Department Inspector General that Clinesmith and other FBI officials’ actions were not caused by political bias and that he believes Clinesmith’s claims that he thought that the information he was adding to the email was accurate.

The Justice Department office of the inspector general discovered Clinesmith’s edit during an investigation of the FBI’s FISA warrants against Page and the Crossfire Hurricane probe.

The IG found the FBI had made 17 “significant” errors and omissions in FISA warrants against Page.

The CIA had made the Crossfire Hurricane team aware of Page’s work as an “operational contact” in August 2016, according to the IG report. The agents who knew of Page’s work with the CIA failed to include that information in the initial FISA application against Page.

If the FBI had discovered that Page was a source for the CIA it would have “drastically” changed how the bureau handled the FISA applications, Clinesmith told the IG.

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