A former FBI lawyer plans to plead guilty to falsifying a key document that was part of the initial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, several news outlets reported on Friday.
Kevin Clinesmith, a 38-year-old lawyer assigned to the FBI probe into foreign election meddling, is expected to plead guilty to altering an email from the CIA that investigators used to seek a wiretap on former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2017.
Investigators relied on that document to seek extended court permission for the secret wiretap on Page, who had previously provided information to the U.S. spy agency. According to the Associated Press, Clinesmith, who left the Russia investigation in Feb. 2018, will be charged in D.C. federal court with one count of making a false statement.
“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Justin Shur, his attorney, told the AP. “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.”
The anticipated guilty plea is part of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins and conduct of the original 2016 probe. The look-back at the previous inquiry has been orchestrated by Attorney General William Barr, with plenty of prodding from President Trump.
But according to the New York Times, while Clinesmith also wrote texts expressing his opposition to Trump, the Durham probe apparently has not found any evidence of a larger conspiracy against Trump, despite his (many) claims to the contrary.
Barr on Thursday foreshadowed the legal action, stating in a Fox News interview that there would be a development in the investigation.
“It’s not an earth-shattering development, but it is an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation,” Barr said on Hannity Thursday night.
Barr has also long portrayed Durham’s investigation as necessary to rectify alleged injustices by the FBI in their investigation into the 2016 election. Just weeks after special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his two-year investigation into the 2016 campaign in mid-2019—and found significant contact between the Russians and the Trump campaign, as well as ample evidence of obstruction of justice, but did not allege any criminality—Barr appointed Durham to conduct his own investigation.
The charges also comes after a Nov. 2019 report from the Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, concluding Clinesmith had altered an email that officials used in the wiretap renewal process. The report also found no evidence that the FBI illegally spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign or attempted to place undercover agents and informants inside it.
The report stated that, in 2017, an FBI agent allegedly played down Page’s ties to the CIA while preparing to file a wiretap application. While Clinesmith was reportedly not initially involved in determining whether Page was a CIA source, he was asked by a supervisory FBI agent later that year for a definitive answer.
According to the IG’s report, Clinesmith falsely said that Page was “never a source” when he sent information to the supervisor—and altered the original email to bolster the lie. That altered email was then used to submit the application for the the third and final renewal application for Page’s wiretap.