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Ex-FBI lawyer Clinesmith pleads guilty to falsifying document in Trump-Russia probe

Ex-FBI lawyer Clinesmith pleads guilty to falsifying document in Trump-Russia probe
© Greg Nash

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to falsifying a document to justify surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser as part of the 2016 investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Clinesmith indicated last week he would plead guilty and formally entered his plea during a phone hearing Tuesday before U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department announced. 

The former FBI lawyer's criminal case is the first of its kind stemming from U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamHaspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up The biggest election losers: Political media and pollsters MORE's investigation. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrNew DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day MORE appointed Durham to lead the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.

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On Tuesday, Clinesmith admitted to altering an email that said former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was not a source for the CIA, even though Page had had a relationship with the agency. That in turn allowed intelligence agencies to renew a warrant to monitor Page for potentially working with foreign powers.

“On or about June 19, 2017, within the District of Columbia, the defendant, Kevin Clinesmith, did willfully and knowingly make and use a false wiring 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,” Durham told the court, according to the Washington Examiner.

Clinesmith, who has previously held that he altered the document by mistake, admitted to intentionally doing so in his plea.

Boasberg serves as presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is responsible for approving surveillance warrants, including the ones on Page.

Clinesmith's sentencing is set for Dec. 10. Prosecutors did not oppose allowing him to be free ahead of his sentencing, but he has some travel restrictions.

The charge he faces carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, but he is reportedly expected to face a sentence between zero and six months.

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Clinesmith’s attorneys and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Hill. 

Durham’s investigation follows Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report that found “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s application to a court to obtain permission to monitor Page.

-- Updated at 5:57 p.m.