The hearing for Kevin Clinesmith has been set for this week, where the former FBI lawyer charged with fraudulently altering an email from the CIA to obtain surveillance against a former Trump campaign associate is expected to plead guilty.
Judge James Boasberg, the presiding judge in the criminal case against Clinesmith (and also the presiding judge for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), set the virtual phone hearing for Wednesday at 1 p.m. before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Clinesmith, who worked on both the Hillary Clinton emails investigation and the Trump-Russia inquiry, is expected to admit that he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew FISA authority to wiretap Carter Page, who was an adviser to President Trump's 2016 campaign. Clinesmith, 38, claimed in early 2017 that Page was "not a source" for the CIA when the CIA had actually told the bureau on multiple occasions that Page was indeed an operational contact for them.
U.S. Attorney John Durham submitted a five-page filing to the federal court on Friday, noting Clinesmith was being charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(3) for “False Statements.”
“On or about June 19, 2017, within the District of Columbia, the defendant, Kevin Clinesmith, did willfully and knowingly make and use a false wiring and document, knowing the same to contain a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and entry in a matter before the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the Government of the United States,” Durham told the court.
"He will be pleading guilty," Emily Damrau, an attorney for Clinesmith, told the Washington Examiner on Monday.
“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Clinesmith's lawyer said Friday. “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.”
Judge Rosemary Collyer, then the presiding judge over the FISA court, ordered an FBI review of every FISA filing that Clinesmith had ever touched following the release of DOJ Inspector General Horowitz’s December report on the FBI's Russia investigation. The FISA court criticized the FBI's handling of the Page applications as "antithetical to the heightened duty of candor described above" and demanded corrective action from the bureau.
Clinesmith, an assistant general counsel in the National Security and Cyber Law Branch of the FBI’s Office of General Counsel from July 12, 2015, through Sept. 21, 2019, is not named in Horowitz's report, but it is clear he is the "Office of General Counsel attorney" who had been acting in response to a question by an FBI agent who was part of the team investigating the Trump campaign.
SSA 2, who swore in an affidavit for all three FISA renewals against Page in 2017, told Horowitz's investigators that on the third renewal, he wanted "a definitive answer to whether Page had ever been a source for another U.S. government agency before he signed the final renewal application." While in contact with what was reportedly the CIA's liaison, Clinesmith was reminded that in August 2016, predating the first Page warrant application in October 2016, the other agency informed the FBI that Page "did, in fact, have a prior relationship with that other agency."
An email from the other government agency's liaison was sent to Clinesmith, who then "altered the liaison's email by inserting the words 'not a source' into it, thus making it appear that the liaison had said that Page was 'not a source' for the other agency" and sent it to "Supervisory Special Agent 2," Horowitz found.
"Relying upon this altered email, SSA 2 signed the third renewal application that again failed to disclose Page's past relationship with the other agency," the inspector general wrote.
In January, the Justice Department determined that the final two of the four Page FISA warrants “were not valid." The FBI told the court it was working to " sequester" all the information from the Page wiretaps, and FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress he was working to "claw back" that intelligence. The FBI director also testified that the bureau likely illegally surveilled Page.
In a scathing July 2018 inspector general report on the FBI's Clinton emails investigation, Clinesmith was mentioned (also not by name) numerous times as being one of the FBI officials who conveyed a possible bias against Trump in instant messages.
In a lengthy instant message exchange between Clinesmith and another FBI employee on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Trump’s presidential victory, he lamented: “My god damned name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff,” Clinesmith said, adding, “So, who knows if that breaks to him what he is going to do?”
Other messages showed Clinesmith, listed in Horowitz's report as "FBI Attorney 2," expressed favor toward Clinton and said “Viva le resistance" in the weeks after Trump's win.