Ex-FBI lawyer to plead guilty in probe into origins of Russian probe
Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty as part of Connecticut’s US attorney John Durham’s probe into the origins of the FBI’s probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Israel. Russian interference in the 2016 elections, according to a source familiar with the matter. This is the first criminal case arising from the Durham Inquiry. Court documents released Friday show Clinesmith faces a count of “misrepresentation.”
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found in his December 2019 report that Clinesmith altered a CIA email cited in the fourth FISA court request to surveil the former aide to Trump’s campaign, Carter Page, in 2017.
While helping prepare the request, Clinesmith was asked by an FBI Supervisory Special Agent if Page had ever been a government agency source, as Page had publicly claimed.
Clinesmith edited an email stating that Page was a government ‘source’, adding words to make it appear that the government agency, later revealed to be the CIA, said Page ‘was not a source’, according to information from the Department of Justice in the case.
He then told the FBI agent in an instant message that Page “was a ‘subsource’ and ‘never was a source.'” When asked if this information was written down, Clinesmith sent the edited email.
The government information points out that each FISA request “alleged there was probable cause that Individual #1 (Page) was a knowing agent” of Russia.
This Page had a previous relationship with the CIA providing information as operational contact on Russia would have been relevant to the surveillance app, and Page argued that this went a long way to explaining his contacts with the Russians.
The Mueller report ultimately concluded that the government investigation “did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government” in his attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Clinesmith’s attorney said in a statement, “Kevin deeply regrets altering the email. He never intended to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he passed on was accurate. But Kevin understands that what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility for it.”
CBS News is seeking further comment from Clinesmith’s attorney.
The source said Clinesmith’s lawyer approached Durham’s office about a deal after FBI files declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month showed Clinesmith was part of a team using a defensive briefing from 2016 to track Russian questions from Flynn and then-candidate. Asset. The source said Clinesmith is expected to cooperate with Durham’s investigation, which is typical of plea deals. He is expected to be asked, regarding both the 2016 defensive briefing and the edited CIA email, whether he acted independently or at the direction of, or with the approval from his FBI leadership.
Clinesmith had previously been accused of sending inappropriate texts, including “viva la resistance”, a few weeks after the 2016 election.
An FBI spokesperson said in a statement: “Under the direction of Director Wray, the FBI has been and will continue to be fully cooperative with Mr. Durham’s examination. This includes providing documents and assigning staff to help his team.”
Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday evening that there would be developments in Durham’s investigation soon, including a Friday. Barr said it wouldn’t be ‘upsetting,’ he told Fox News host Sean Hannity in a meeting Thursday, but he also added that the timing of the inquiry would not be “dictated” by the upcoming November election.
“I said there would be developments, important developments, before the elections. But we don’t do that in the election calendar. We are aware of the elections. We are not going to do anything inappropriate before the elections. elections,” Barr said. “But we are not dictated by this timetable. What dictates the timing are the developments in the case.”
He summed up “the evolution of the case” which will be revealed on Friday as “an indication that things are moving at the right pace, as dictated by the facts of this investigation”.
In May 2019, Barr asked Durham to further review the government investigation into Russia, after former special adviser Robert Mueller released his report. The Attorney General had previously expressed concern about possible Trump campaign ‘inappropriate oversight’.
The Horowitz Review released in december found several procedural errors but, overall, no “political bias” on the part of the agency.
However, Durham questioned the conclusions of Horowitz’s report at the time.
“Based on the evidence gathered to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we disagreed with some of the report’s findings as to the preaching and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in December. .
Andres Triay contributed to this report.