WASHINGTON – Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who altered an email during the Russia investigation that was used to justify the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, was sentenced to one-year probation on Friday.
Clinesmith, who worked for the FBI for four years, pleaded guilty last summer to falsifying the communication during the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
The document was altered to show that Page was “not a source” for the CIA, even though the original message from the CIA indicated otherwise. The CIA had earlier told investigators in a memo that Page was an “operational contact” for the agency from 2008 to 2013 and provided information about his contacts with Russian intelligence officers.
During sentencing, Clinesmith said he was “ashamed” of his actions, adding that it had “harmed the very institutions that I cherish and admire.”
“I have a duty to take responsibility for my actions and mistakes,” Clinesmith told the court.
The case against Clinesmith was the first to be brought by federal prosecutor John Durham, who was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr to review the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Barr later named Durham special counsel, a move that ensures the politically charged probe will continue during the Biden administration.
Prosecutors said Page’s status as a CIA source undermined investigators’ belief that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power and should’ve been disclosed to the judge. Clinesmith’s attorneys said he did not knowingly lie about Page’s relationship with the CIA.
Clinesmith had asked to be spared from a prison sentence, acknowledging he had committed a crime but did not mean to mislead FBI agents. His attorneys argued that when he informed the FBI agent and others that Page was not a source for the CIA, he “genuinely believed he was conveying accurate information,” according to court papers.
But prosecutors, who had recommended that Clinesmith be sent to prison, argued that his “political or personal bias” against President Donald Trump may have motivated him to alter the email, and his actions led to an unjustified surveillance of Page. Prosecutors also said there’s no evidence that would’ve led Clinesmith to believe Page was not a CIA source.
Page had filed a $75 million federal lawsuit accusing the FBI of targeting him for his work for the Trump campaign and of extensively relying on information and documents from a former British spy to justify continued surveillance of him.
Clinesmith’s sentencing had been delayed as Page sought to be recognized as a victim in the case and to be allowed to speak during the sentencing hearing.