Ex-FBI Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Move Trump Sees Hurting Biden
(Bloomberg) -- A former FBI lawyer agreed Friday to plead guilty to falsifying a document that was part of a broad investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, in the first criminal charge under an inquiry into whether government officials committed wrongdoing.
The former lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, admitted he altered an email from the CIA that investigators used to seek renewed court permission for a secret wiretap on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2017. Clinesmith changed the email to incorrectly say that Page hadn’t been a CIA source.
Trump and his conservative allies seized on the development to bolster their unsupported claim that former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- Trump’s re-election opponent this year -- spied on his 2016 presidential campaign and then worked to sabotage his early presidency.
The president described Clinesmith as “a corrupt FBI attorney who falsified FISA warrants in James Comey’s very corrupt FBI.”
“Fact is they spied on my campaign and they got caught, and you’ll be hearing more,” Trump said at a White House news conference.
Clinesmith altered an email for one warrant to the special court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, not multiple warrants as Trump said, and did so in June 2017 after Trump fired Comey.
More broadly, the case against Clinesmith involves a lower-level official and doesn’t provide evidence to back up the assertion that there was a broad criminal conspiracy against Trump led from the White House.
Clinesmith will plead guilty to the charge but there won’t be a court appearance on Friday, his lawyer, Justin Shur, said in an email.
“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Shur said. “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 charge is part of a criminal investigation that Attorney General William Barr opened last year into the FBI’s Russia probe, which sought to determine whether anyone associated with Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016’s election. The investigation, which is being led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, is examining actions that law enforcement and intelligence officials took in the early stages of the investigation into Russia’s election interference.
On Thursday, Trump warned Barr that he shouldn’t be “politically correct” and “just get a couple of the lower guys.”
“Bill Barr has a chance to be the greatest of all time, but if he wants to be politically correct he’ll be just another guy because he knows all the answers,” Trump said in the interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network. “He knows what they have, and it goes right to Obama and it goes right to Biden.”
Trump and his allies have said they expect findings from Durham’s probe to be made public in the weeks before the election that they can use against Biden.
Barr is facing criticism that he’s politicizing the Justice Department and is going to violate a policy under which prosecutors aren’t supposed to make public moves that could sway an election.
Hours after Trump’s warning, Barr said that a new development in the investigation was coming and that he planned to reveal more in the coming weeks.
Barr denied he’s bending to politics or election considerations in the interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity
“I have said there are going to be developments, significant developments, before the election,” Barr said. “But we’re not doing this on the election schedule. We’re aware of the election. We’re not going to do anything inappropriate before the election.”
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