Kevin Clinesmith pleads guilty to altering email in Russia probe

flag of FBI and USA painted on cracked wall

On Wednesday ex-FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying a government document. Clinesmith was the first person charged in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s Russian probe. He will be sentenced on Dec. 10. 

It is alleged that Clinesmith partially forged a government document in order to obtain a FISA warrant to justify the surveillance and wiretapping of Carter Page.

The forgery and other FISA abuses were revealed with the release of the December 2019 report prepared by the inspector general, Michael Horowitz.

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Durham prosecutors are looking into the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation which led to the Robert Mueller Russia investigation.

Crossfire Hurricane

By August 2016, the FBI was officially investigating four individual cases in a high-level investigation known as “Crossfire Hurricane.” 

The investigation opened as a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) inquiry into whether associates of the Donald J.Trump Presidential campaign were working with the Russian government.

On Aug. 17, 2016, two months before the approval of the first FISA application, the Other Government Agency (OGA) gave some members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memo indicating that Page was an approved operational contact for the U.S. from 2008 to 2013. 

The OGA, in this case, has been acknowledged publicly to be the CIA.

The memo outlined Page’s service to the CIA and described how he had met certain Russian intelligence officers at their request. It also provided other details of his work for them.

The information provided by the CIA was not included in any of the FISA applications. 

Between October 2016 and September 2017 there were four Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) applications targeting Carter Page.

Each of these FISA applications alleged there was “probable cause” that Carter Page was a “knowing agent of a foreign power, specifically Russia.” This was based on the fact that Carter had contact with “certain Russian intelligence agents.” 

Information is leaked by Christopher Steele and the FBI

On  Sept. 23, 2016, an article appeared on Yahoo News with the headline “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” The first FISA application of Page was approved on Oct. 21, 2016. 

Inspector Horowitz indicates in his Inspector General report that the Yahoo article was part of a series of leaked information by Christopher Steele, and later members of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team.

A flurry of media articles and interviews based on information leaked by Steele and the FBI made suggestions and accusations that Carter Page was a Russian agent closely tied to Trump.

The opposite was true, Page had done work for a U.S. intelligence agency and had met Russian officials at the agency’s request. Page experienced a media feeding frenzy and death threats.

Page then began to publicly admit that he was a CIA source. And he denied being a Russian agent. 

The fourth FISA application is approved

When the fourth FISA warrant was up for renewal, an FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA), asked Clinesmith to confirm if Page had ever been a “source” for the CIA. The SSA has to “swear to” the application. 

On June 15, 2017, Clinesmith sent an email to a liaison from the OGA asking for clarification.

The same day the CIA responded letting Clinesmith know that the information had been provided to his team in August 2016. A list of all the supporting documents that had been provided was attached.

The confirmation that Page was a source was also in the body of the email sent to Clinesmith. 

On June 19, 2017, the SSA sent an instant message to Clinesmith asking about the status of his request. Clinesmith told him Page was never a source. He  further stated, “…the OGA [CIA] confirmed explicitly he was never a source.” The SSA asked, “Do we have that in writing?” 

Clinesmith responded that he did and that he would forward the email that the CIA provided to them. He altered the email to say “was not a source.” The email and supporting evidence were clear that Page was a CIA source.

The fourth and final FISA request was approved.

Carter Page was wiretapped for a total of 11 months. He had FBI and Steele Dossier information leaked and amplified in worldwide media until 2019. Carter Page was never charged with any crime.

The Carter Page investigation later morphed into the Robert Mueller Russia investigation. The Mueller inquiry found no criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign on any level.


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