The Office of Disciplinary Counsel in Washington, D.C., has reached an agreement with ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith that his admitted criminality does not constitute “moral turpitude” and his law license should be suspended for just one year after he received only probation for falsifying a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act document during the Trump-Russia investigation.
Clinesmith, who worked on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and on the FBI’s Trump-Russia inquiry, as well as special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, admitted in August 2020 that he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew FISA surveillance authority against Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.
Clinesmith edited a CIA email in 2017 to state Page was “not a source” for the CIA when it had told the bureau on multiple occasions Page had been an “operational contact” for the agency. He was sentenced to probation in January.
After a review of how to handle Clinesmith’s standing with the D.C. bar, disciplinary counsel and Clinesmith’s lawyers signed a petition for negotiated discipline and said they “agree that the sanction to be imposed in this matter is a one-year suspension.” The suspension would essentially apply retroactively from the month of his guilty plea last year, so his yearlong suspension would actually end in August.
The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility is scheduled to hold a hearing next month, in which it can either approve or reject the slap on the wrist Clinesmith has agreed to. The agreement was first reported by Reuters on Monday.
Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox III and Assistant Disciplinary Counsel William Ross signed the agreement, dated June 11. It was approved by Clinesmith lawyers Eric Yaffe and Frank Sciremammano of the Lathrop GPM law firm.
Fox and Ross did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner’s questions about their claims related to Clinesmith's lack of moral turpitude and assertions they made about the legitimacy of the Trump-Russia investigation.
The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board also notes Clinesmith received an “automatic interim suspension” there in August 2020.
CLINESMITH GETS JUST PROBATION FOR FISA DECEPTION
The new bar documents state the disciplinary counsel “certifies” Clinesmith’s “crime does not involve moral turpitude per se” and claimed the “Disciplinary Counsel does not believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove moral turpitude on the facts.”
Although Clinesmith “admitted knowingly altering an email to include information that was not originally in the email and sending it to the SSA as if the information was originally in the email, thereby knowingly and willfully using a false writing knowing the same to contain a materially false entry thereon," the document added the "Disciplinary Counsel would be unable to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his conduct rose to the level of moral turpitude.”
Then-U.S. Attorney John Durham, elevated to special counsel in October, and Clinesmith dueled in court over how long the lawyer should spend behind bars.
The bar document includes a section on “mitigating factors,” including that Clinesmith “has taken full responsibility for his misconduct and has demonstrated remorse.”
The disciplinary counsel noted that "the sentencing judge credited Clinesmith’s explanation that he had wrongly believed that the information he was inserting into the email was accurate.” Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the Justice Department's efforts seeking up to six months behind bars, instead giving Clinesmith probation and 400 hours of community service within a year with no fine.
DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s report criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Page and the bureau's reliance on the Democrat-funded, discredited dossier by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, with most of the critiques unrelated to Clinesmith.
The Justice Department told the FISA court it believed the final two of four Page FISA warrants were “not valid." FBI Director Christopher Wray agreed there had been at least some illegal surveillance and said he was working to “claw back” that FISA information.
Clinesmith said in January he was "deeply remorseful for any effect my actions may have had” on the FISA process. But he said, “I never intended to mislead my colleagues about the status of Dr. Page,” and called the fraudulent email “an unnecessary shortcut.”
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In a separate July 2018 inspector general report on the FBI's Clinton emails investigation, Clinesmith was mentioned numerous times as one of the FBI officials who conveyed a possible bias against Trump.