An FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to falsifying a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) court document in an application seeking a warrant to spy on a 2016 Trump campaign adviser will not spend any time behind bars.
Rather, Kevin Clinesmith will serve 12 months of probation and perform 400 hours of community service as part of the only criminal case thus far linked to Special Counsel John Durham’s probe into the origins of the so-called ‘Russiagate’ case.
In August, Clinesmith pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch and Judicial Branch of the federal government. The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
But the former FBI lawyer did not receive a sentence remotely as serious.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge for the D.C. District James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, said ahead of sentencing that Clinesmith had already suffered enough from losing his job as well as his status due to intense media scrutiny.
Federal prosecutors pressed Boasberg — who, ironically, has served as a member of the secretive FISC and was named its Presiding Judge Jan. 1, 2020 — to sentence Clinesmith to at least several months in prison, Fox News reported.
Clinesmith was referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution by the DoJ’s inspector general after the office conducted its own review of the origins of the Russiagate operation which targeted former President Trump’s 2016 campaign. A foreign policy adviser to the campaign, Carter Page, was the subject of at least four FISA court spy warrants.
Though not by name, the inspector general accused Clinesmith of changing an email about Page to say he was “not a source” for another government agency. However, Page has said he was an asset for the CIA.
The DoJ said it relied on Clinesmith’s claim when submitting a third and final surveillance renewal application in 2017, well after President Trump had taken office, to continue spying on Page.
In its charging statement, the Justice Department said Clinesmith “did willfully and knowingly make and use a false writing and document, knowing the same to contain a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and entry in a matter before the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the Government of the United States.”
The statement noted that he altered another government office’s June 2017 email to say that Page, referred to as “Individual #1”, was “not a source,” though the original email did not say that.
“The application for FISA #4 did not include Individual #1’s history or status with the OGA [other government agency],” said the charging statement.
Thus far, Clinesmith is the only person charged and/or convicted in connection with Durham’s criminal probe, which began in May 2019 within weeks of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrapping up his yearlong probe into alleged collusion between then-candidate Trump and Russia. Mueller’s report made clear that his investigation found no evidence of the allegation.
In December, then-Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham as a special counsel so he could continue his investigation into the origins of the Russiangate operation.
In a scope order leaked to Fox News, Barr wrote that Durham “is authorized to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.”
As the November election drew close, Trump grew increasingly frustrated that there would not be at least a report from the DoJ and Durham regarding his findings.
It’s not clear whether Durham is planning to charge anyone else in connection with the Russiagate scandal.
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