Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the investigation into links between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia James Boasberg accepted the plea. Clinesmith's sentencing date has been set for Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. ET.
Durham's office on Wednesday said that Clinesmith's guilty plea was to "one count of making a false statement within both the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the U.S. government, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000."
Clinesmith was referred for potential prosecution by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which conducted its own review of the Russia investigation.
The inspector general accused Clinesmith, though not by name, of altering an email about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to say that he was “not a source” for another government agency.
Page has said he was a source for the CIA.
The Justice Department relied on Clinesmith’s assertion as it submitted a third and final renewal application in 2017 to eavesdrop on Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
During the plea hearing, Boasberg asked Clinesmith to affirm that he "intentionally altered an email, and added language" that "individual number one" was "not a source...and you knew that statement was in fact not true."
Clinesmith replied, "At the time I thought the information I was providing was accurate, but I am agreeing the information I inserted was not originally there, and I inserted the information."
Boasberg went on to ask: "You intentionally altered the email to insert information that was not originally in the email?"
"Yes, your honor," replied Clinesmith.
"Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email. 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," Clinesmith’s attorney Justin Shur said in a statement.
President Trump, noting the case at the top of a press conference last week, called the individual “corrupt” and predicted the charge is “just the beginning.”
“The fact is they spied on my campaign and they got caught. And you’ll be hearing more,” he said.
The Justice Department’s charging document stated that 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 document said he altered another official's June 2017 email to say Page (referred to as "Individual #1") was "not a source" when the original email did not contain those words.
The filing said another official took Clinesmith’s altered email, relied on it, and signed and submitted the renewed FISA application to the FISA Court.
“The application for FISA #4 did not include Individual #1’s history or status with the OGA [other government agency],” the document read.
Meanwhile, an FBI spokesperson told Fox News last week that "under Director Wray's leadership, the FBI has been, and will continue to be, fully cooperative with Mr. Durham's review. This includes providing documents and assigning personnel to assist his team.”
"While the FBI does not comment on ongoing legal matters, it is important to note the employee in this case no longer works at the FBI, resigning before an internal disciplinary process was completed," the FBI spokesperson said.
Durham was appointed by Attorney General Bill Barr last year to investigate the origins of the FBI’s original Russia probe, shortly after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller completed his years-long investigation into whether the campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Durham’s timeline was focused on July 2016, when the FBI’s original Russia probe began, through the appointment of Mueller in May 2017.
Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election, though the question of whether Trump obstructed justice was left open in the final report.
Meanwhile, last month, Fox News reported that a declassified document revealed that the FBI agent who delivered a defensive briefing on election interference to the Trump campaign in August 2016 “actively listened” for certain topics – using it as a “cover” to monitor then-candidate Donald Trump and Michael Flynn, a source familiar with the document said.
The agent delivering the briefing was Joe Pientka. Pientka's notes followed an Aug. 17, 2016 briefing to then-candidate Trump, Michael Flynn and Chris Christie, "in support of ODNI briefings provided to U.S. Presidential candidates and two of their advisors.”
The document was dated Aug. 30, 2016, and filed under “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI’s code name for its investigation into whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians to influence the 2016 election; “Crossfire Razor,” the FBI’s code name for the investigation into Michael Flynn; "Russia Sensitive Investigative Matter," and FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The document stated that Clinesmith and FBI official Peter Strzok "approved" Pientka's notes.