FBI lawyer pleads GUILTY to altering email evidence in Trump spying scandal

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, an important player in the ‘Russiagate’ investigation into President Donald Trump, is the first person to plead guilty in US attorney John Durham’s probe of what’s been dubbed ‘Spygate.’

Clinesmith was a member of the FBI General Counsel’s Office (GCO) assigned to work on the Crossfire Hurricane probe – the name given to the investigation of claims into Trump’s ties with Russia during the 2016 election. His attorney, Justin Shur, told the AP news agency on Friday that Clinesmith intends to plead guilty to one count of making a false statement.

What Clinesmith actually did was alter an email from the CIA to the GCO, in which Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was described as a source for the agency, to say he was not a source – which cleared the way for the FBI to request a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page as a “Russian agent” and, through him, the Trump campaign.

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Shur said. “It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues,” he added, noting that Clinesmith “believed the information he relayed was accurate.”

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President Trump referenced Clinesmith at a White House briefing on Friday, describing him as “a corrupt FBI attorney who falsified evidence.”

“That’s just the beginning,” Trump said, in reference to the Durham probe. “They spied on my campaign and got caught.”

Clinesmith’s indictment and plea are a major development in the ‘Spygate’ saga. The mainstream media and Democrats alike laughed dismissively when Trump said the Obama administration had “wiretapped” his campaign, only to conduct a fighting retreat as evidence to prove him right steadily trickled in over the years.

The FBI obtained a total of four FISA warrants against Page and the Trump campaign, beginning just before the 2016 presidential election. In addition to Clinesmith’s edit, they relied heavily on the unsubstantiated ‘dossier’ by British spy Christopher Steele, paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

Even though the FBI discovered Steele had embellished the claims of his “primary sub-source” and outright invented others, they still applied to extend the warrants through September 2017. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has since disavowed the warrants as invalid and quarantined all information obtained under them.

Clinesmith’s alteration of the CIA email was exposed in the December 2019 report by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The timing of the indictment and the fact he was only charged with a false statement – rather than altering evidence – has prompted questions, as well as speculation that he might be cooperating with Durham in the probe of other FBI and DOJ officials from the Obama administration who are facing scrutiny for their role in Crossfire Hurricane.

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