Durham Seeks Jail Time for Ex-FBI Lawyer Who Altered CIA Email About Carter Page
U.S. Attorney John Durham is seeking a prison sentence of up to six months for Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email from the CIA regarding former Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s past relationship with the spy agency.
Durham asked a federal judge in a court filing on Thursday to sentence Clinesmith to a jail term “between the middle and upper end” of what federal sentencing guidelines recommend for the crime of making false statements in writing.
Clinesmith pleaded guilty to the charge on Aug. 19. He admitted to adding the phrase “not a ‘source’” to a June 2017 email from a CIA employee who had provided information about Page’s relationship with the agency.
Page served as an “operational contact” for the CIA from 2008 to 2013.
Clinesmith, who worked in the FBI’s National Cyber Law Branch, assisted the bureau’s Crossfire Hurricane team in its investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to the Russian government. As part of his legal work, Clinesmith contacted the CIA regarding Page’s association with the spy agency.
Clinesmith, who also worked on the special counsel’s team, forwarded his altered email to an FBI analyst who was putting together an application to renew a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page.
Clinesmith’s email edit was discovered by the Justice Department office of the inspector general, which investigated the FBI’s FISA warrants against Page, as well as the validity of the Crossfire Hurricane probe.
A report from the IG said that the FBI made 17 “significant” errors and omissions in FISA warrants against Page.
The IG report said that the CIA had initially told the Crossfire Hurricane team in August 2016 about Page’s work as an “operational contact.” The agents who received that information failed to include it in the initial FISA application against Page, which was approved on Oct. 21, 2016.
Clinesmith told the IG that the FBI finding out that Page was a source for the CIA would have “drastically” changed how the bureau handled the FISA applications.
Durham asserted in his court filing that Clinesmith was aware of the significance of Page’s relationship with the CIA.
Clinesmith told the IG that the FBI and Justice Department’s office of intelligence had a “big, big concern” that investigators may have targeted a CIA source.
“That should never happen without us knowing about it.”
Clinesmith is seeking a sentence of probation with no jail time, according to a filing his lawyers submitted on Thursday. His attorneys said that Clinesmith “made a grievous mistake” in altering the email, and “accepts full responsibility” for his actions.
They maintain that Clinesmith “did not knowingly lie” about Page’s relationship with the CIA. Durham asserts that Clinesmith may have been motivated to alter the email due to “political or personal bias” against Donald Trump and his campaign.
Durham pointed to a Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server which flagged texts messages that Clinesmith sent criticizing Trump after his election win.
Clinesmith wrote “Viva le Resistance” in one message that seemingly referenced the so-called Trump Resistance that formed after his election win.
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