Law & the Courts

FBI Lawyer Who Doctored Russiagate Email Agrees to One-Year Law License Suspension

The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. (Jim Bourg/REUTERS)

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith and his legal team have agreed to a one-year law license suspension in Washington, D.C., after the official was found guilty in August 2020 of illegally modifying a statement relating to the Russiagate investigation and scandal, according to new bar records.

A District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility committee will hear the suspension proposal on July 19 and decide whether to approve or reject Clinesmith’s bar sanction.

If the panel proceeds with the suspension, Clinesmith will be prohibited from practicing law again until August 2021, one year from the date when he reported his guilty plea to the D.C. disciplinary counsel’s office.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty in court to the charge that he had doctored an email that was presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) in 2017 concerning whether or not former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had been a “source” for the CIA. He was then sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service in January 2021.

He was convicted 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.” The email which Clinesmith edited was originally sent to him by the CIA and was to be forwarded to the FISA court. Clinesmith’s revisions painted the picture that the intelligence organization did not deem Page a source, despite him being a CIA “operation contact” for five years.

While Clinesmith admitted in court that he did change the email, he said he believed he was being truthful, not driven by political bias, with the content he added to it.

“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.

The disciplinary counsel’s office that reviewed Clinesmith’s case originally said it “does not believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove moral turpitude on the facts.” It referenced other lawyer ethics incidents where an attorney was penalized with a one-year bar suspension for sending a falsified document to a U.S. agency.

The office acknowledged Clinesmith’s record of “distinguished public service,” claiming he was not moved by “any personal financial, economic or commercial motive” when he committed the infraction. It said that his case “involves only a single incident, not a pattern of misconduct.”

As for the justification for the license rescinding, however, bar enforcers said the former FBI official’s “misconduct has been used to discredit what appeared otherwise to have been a legitimate and highly important investigation” of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of then candidate Donald Trump.

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