A former FBI lawyer was charged Friday and is expected to plead guilty to falsifying documents used to support the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The case against Kevin Clinesmith is the first to be brought by federal prosecutor John Durham, appointed last year to review the origins of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Clinesmith’s lawyers said their client “deeply regrets” his actions involving work on surveillance applications for Page submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate,” his lawyers said in a statement. “But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility.”
Specifically, Clinesmith is charged with altering an email in 2017 used to support a surveillance warrant. The altered email indicated that Page had not served as a source for the Central Intelligence Agency. The original CIA email indicated that Page had indeed been a contact for the agency.
Attorney General William Barr hinted late Thursday there would be new developments as soon as Friday in the inquiry.
President Donald Trump and Republican allies in Congress have long cast the Russia investigation, headed by former special counsel Robert Mueller, as an attempt by the Obama administration to undermine Trump’s presidency and have urged the attorney general to publish his findings prior to the 2020 election.
On Friday, House Judiciary Republicans sought to cast Clinesmith’s guilty plea as proof of an anti-Trump conspiracy, tweeting that a “cabal” involving former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and former FBI director James Comey “was out to get” Trump. But the charging documents made public Friday do not suggest Clinesmith conspired with FBI leadership when he altered the email.
“While I’m encouraged by this advancement in the Durham investigation, I hope this is simply step one in our quest for accountability,” said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., a member of the Judiciary panel. “It’s clear that this coup reached the highest levels of the Obama Administration, all the way up to the Oval Office.”
In previous references to the investigation, Barr has maintained that neither former President Barack Obama nor former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee for the Democratic nomination, are subjects of the investigation.
Nonetheless, the attorney general, in a Thursday interview with Fox News, said there would be “significant developments” before the November election in the review, headed by Durham, the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.
Barr appointed Durham more than a year ago after claiming federal authorities “spied” on the Trump campaign during the Russia investigation.
The attorney general, harshly critical of Mueller’s work, has asserted that the special counsel promoted an “utterly false” theory that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
“What happened to the president in the 2016 election and throughout the first two years of his presidency was abhorrent. It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history,” Barr said in May. “The Durham investigation is trying to get to the bottom of what happened. And it will determine whether there are federal laws broken. Those who broke the laws will be held to account.”