WASHINGTON D.C.—Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith agreed to plead guilty for making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from the investigation into links between Russia and the 2016 Trump Campaign, reviewed by United States Attorney John Durham.

Clinesmith was charged in federal court in Washington D.C. on August 14, 2020, with one count of making a false statement for altering information he had received from the CIA in June 2017 which hid the fact that Trump campaign official Carter Page was a source for the Agency. 

The charging document from the Justice Department outlined background and events that led Clinesmith to forward an altered email from the CIA to the Social Security Administration. 

Clinesmith worked for the FBI from July 2015 to September 2019.

On July 31, 2016, an investigation known as Crossfire Hurricane opened to determine whether individuals associated with President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign were knowledgeable or coordinating activities with the Russian government. By August 16, 2016, four individuals were selected for investigation, including Trump’s campaign official Carter Page. 

Defendant Clinesmith was designated to provide legal support to FBI personnel working on Crossfire Hurricane and communicated with the CIA to provide information to the Crossfire Hurricane team. One of Clinesmith’s duties was providing the FBI to prepare Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications, which acted as warrants to investigate individuals under suspicion.

Each of Clinesmith’s FISA applications alleged there was probable cause that Page was a knowing agent of a foreign power, specifically Russia.  

On August 17, 2016, prior to the approval of the first FISA application, the CIA provided certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memorandum indicating Page was CIA affiliated and detailing information about Page’s prior contact with Russian intelligence officers. The first three FISA applications did not include Page’s involvement with the CIA. 

On June 15, 2017, Clinesmith asked the CIA about Page’s involvement with the agency. A CIA liaison emailed records to Clinesmith reiterating the memorandum, stating Page was a CIA “operational contact” and “a source”.

On June 19, 2017, the Social Security Administration (SSA) messaged Clinesmith asking if Page was associated with the CIA. Emails between him and the SSA show Clinesmith indicated that Page was a “subsource” and “was never a source” for the CIA. Clinesmith stated, “[The CIA] confirmed explicitly he was never a source”. The SSA requested confirmation in writing, and Clinesmith stated that he would forward the email that the CIA had sent him earlier that week.

Clinesmith forwarded the June 15, 2017, email to the SSA with alterations he made so that the email stated Page was “not a source”. 

Relying on the email, the SSA signed and submitted a FISA application to the FISA Court on June 29, 2017. The application for FISA #4 did not include Page’s history with the CIA. The Court accepted the application and approved surveillance of Page for nearly a year, the criminal information filed by Durham states.

On August 14, 2020, Clinesmith’s lawyers said this was unintentional. 

“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,” his lawyers told Washington Post.