Kevin Clinesmith, a former lawyer in the FBI general counsel's office, plans to plead guilty to making false statements while working on the bureau's Russia investigation, The New York Times reported.
Clinesmith will reportedly admit that he altered a CIA email that FBI investigators used to get a judge's permission to renew a surveillance warrant targeting former Trump campaign foreign policy aide Carter Page.
The anticipated guilty plea will come as part of an internal investigation, conducted by the outside prosecutor John Durham, into the origins of the Russia probe.
Although Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty and had expressed opposition to Trump in text messages, Durham's investigation has not uncovered evidence of a broader conspiracy within the FBI or Justice Department to undermine Trump's presidency, as the president and his associates have claimed.
A former FBI lawyer will plead guilty to falsifying a document while working on the FBI's Russia investigation, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The former lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, worked at the FBI general counsel's office and was investigated as part of an internal probe into the origins of the Russia inquiry. Attorney General William Barr tapped an outside prosecutor, John Durham, to spearhead the investigation. Clinesmith's guilty plea will come as prosecutors prepared to charge him in a federal court in Washington, DC, with one felony count of making false statements.
According to The Times, Clinesmith plans to admit that he altered a CIA email that FBI investigators used to get a court's permission to renew a surveillance warrant targeting the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page in 2017. Specifically, Clinesmith will acknowledge that he doctored the email to say that Page was not a source for the CIA, even though Page did have a previous relationship with the agency.
President Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill have long claimed that the Russia investigation — which examined whether his campaign conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 US election — was a politically motivated "witch hunt." One of their central allegations is that the FBI improperly used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to go after those in Trump's circle, especially Page.
The Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, conducted an investigation into the FBI's management of the Russia probe and concluded last year that although the bureau made mistakes when applying for the Page FISA warrants, its actions were not motivated by political bias against Trump.
Clinesmith's name first surfaced when he was mentioned in Horowitz's report for his actions involving the CIA email. In particular, the inspector general raised concerns about how Page's previous relationship with the CIA was not adequately described in the FBI's application for a FISA warrant against Page.
Ultimately, Horowitz concluded that although the FBI's FISA application process was riddled with bureaucratic irregularities, the Russia probe was not marred by political bias and the FBI had sufficient cause to launch the Russia probe in the summer of 2016.
The Times also reported that although Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty and had expressed opposition to Trump in text messages, Durham's investigation did not uncover any evidence of a broader conspiracy within the FBI or Justice Department to undermine Trump's presidency, as the president and his associates have claimed.
Clinesmith's lawyers, meanwhile, reportedly argued that he simply made a mistake while trying to clarify the facts of the investigation for a coworker.
"Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email," his lawyer said in a statement to The Washington Post. "It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate. But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility."
Page, an energy executive with extensive contacts in Russia, joined the Trump campaign in 2016 as a foreign policy adviser. But he was on the FBI's radar long before that.
In January 2013, according to Page's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in 2017, he met Russian businessman Victor Podobnyy, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, at an event in New York. He met with Podobnyy a second time two months later, in March 2013.
That June, Page was interviewed by two FBI counterintelligence agents who were investigating whether Podobnyy and two others were Russian spies trying to recruit American assets, according to court documents. According to TIME, Page told agents their time would be better spent investigating the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred in April 2013. The FBI obtained its first FISA warrant to monitor Page that same year.
In August 2013, Page boasted about his Russia contacts in a letter to an academic journal that was obtained by TIME.
"Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda," Page said in the letter, dated August 25, 2013.
FBI investigators obtained another FISA warrant to monitor Page's communications in October 2016, shortly before the presidential election. The warrant was renewed three more times over the next several months.
Horowitz's investigation determined that although the FBI was informed of Page's relationship with the CIA, an agent downplayed that relationship while putting together the October 2016 FISA warrant against him.
In September 2017, an FBI supervisory agent who was putting together the final renewal application for Page asked Clinesmith whether Page was a CIA source or not. Clinesmith said, incorrectly, that Page was "never a source," altered the CIA's email to say Page was not an agency source, and sent it to the supervisory agent. That agent used the doctored email to support the FBI's third renewal application.
Clinesmith's lawyers say that he did not have malicious intent when altering the CIA's email but rather that he did so because he genuinely did not think Page was ever a CIA source. They also pointed out that he sent the original email to FBI agents involved in the Russia probe and a Justice Department lawyer who put together the original FISA application in late 2016.
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