Ex-FBI lawyer spared prison for altering Trump-Russia probe email

Clinesmith insisted he believed the statement was true at the time and only changed the message to save himself the hassle of getting another email from the CIA. Prosecutors denied this claim on the grounds that the FBI attorney intended to mislead his colleague, but Boasberg was on the defense side on this point.

“I think Mr. Clinesmith probably believed what he said about Mr. Page was true,” said Boasberg. “By changing the email, he saved himself work and selected an inappropriate link.”

While Trump and his GOP allies have indicated that Clinesmith was implicated in political vengeance against Trump, Boasberg noted that a general investigation by the Justice Department inspector did not reveal that political considerations played a role in Clinesmith’s actions or numerous other errors and omissions Omissions that affected the filing of motions played the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“I see no reason to contradict this conclusion,” said Boasberg, who took over as chief judge of the secret Supervision Court last year but passed the conviction on Friday as part of his more routine duties as a judge at the federal district court in Washington.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty last August of bringing a false crime charge in a plea with John Durham, then Attorney General William Barr, to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Barr officially appointed Durham as a special adviser last fall to help complicate a new administration’s attempt to shut down Durham’s investigation.

Prosecutors argued that Clinesmith’s wrongdoing was so serious that he earned between three and six months in prison. Clinesmith’s attorneys asked him not to be given jail time. The maximum sentence for misrepresentation charges is five years in prison, although judges are usually sentenced under federal guidelines that require Clinesmith to sit between zero and six months in prison.

“The criminal conduct of the accused clouded and undermined the integrity of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Program, “US deputy attorney Anthony Scarpelli told the court.” It has lasting ramifications for the DOJ, FBI, FISC, FISA process, and US citizens’ trust in their government … The damage it causes is immeasurable. “

Clinesmith’s attorney Justin Shur called his client’s actions “inexcusable” but said they were “aberrations” in a life of committed public service. He also said that they played a relatively minor role in the overall surveillance process and broader investigation.

“There were a lot of people involved in these applications and a lot of mistakes,” Shur said.

Boasberg also agreed on this point, saying he was not convinced that full disclosure of Page’s relationship with the CIA would have resulted in his being refused or terminated surveillance.

“I am not at all clear about the FISA arrest warrant … would not have been signed without this mistake,” said the judge.

Clinesmith also turned to the court, expressing remorse, describing his career as essentially ruined by his wrongdoing and subsequent law enforcement.

“I am fully aware of the importance of my actions and the critical error of judgment that I have made,” said the lawyer. “I have failed the FBI, the Justice Department, my colleagues, the public, and my family. I have failed me too. I will live with the consequences and the heartfelt feelings of regret, shame and loss that come.” caused by this for the rest. ” of my life.”

While prosecutors asked the judge to send Clinesmith to jail to send a message to other members of the government so as not to try something similar, Boasberg said he believed the message had already been sent. He noted that Clinesmith has lost his job, may be expelled, and may never be able to work in the national security field again.

“It has gone from being an obscure government attorney to a media hurricane,” the judge said. “He’s not someone who has ever sought the limelight or invited controversy except through his criminal act here … Anyone who has watched what Mr. Clinesmith has suffered is not someone who would willingly act that way. “

The 90-minute trial also included a passionate speech from Page, in which the energy analyst complained that his life was also turned upside down by the media firestorm that followed the public announcement that he was a focus of the FBI -Investigation of potential Russian influence was on the Trump campaign.

“My personal life has been badly affected,” said Page. “I was harassed a lot on the street and even under the street, for example in the Washington subway under the courthouse. It was dead serious. At that time, being a ‘traitor’, I received many death threats.

However, Page did not ask Clinesmith for imprisonment. “I hope the defendant can return to his family as soon as you see fit,” the former Trump campaign advisor told the judge.

That seems to please Boasberg, who mentioned twice during the hearing that Page was not looking for prison for the ex-FBI attorney.

Last year, Clinesmith became something of a figurehead for Republicans criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the previous FBI investigation. Indeed, many Müller critics – including Trump – suggested that Clinesmith was only the first of many government officials who could be charged with crimes related to opening or conducting the investigation.

At a press conference last August, Trump called Clinesmith “a corrupt FBI attorney” and predicted further prosecution.

“So this is just the beginning, I would imagine, because what happened should never happen again,” said Trump. The president and his allies also pushed for a report from Durham, which Trump said would expose wide-ranging violations related to the investigation. No report was ever published, although Durham continued his work.

Texts and other messages sent by Clinesmith in 2016 contributed to allegations that his actions were part of a deliberate effort to smear Page and target the Trump campaign.

Among the messages uncovered in the inspector’s general report was one sent the day after Trump’s election in 2016.

“Who knows whether the rhetoric of deporting people, walls and dung is true. I honestly feel like there will be a lot more gun problems too, the madmen finally won, ”Clinesmith wrote. “This is the tea party about steroids. And the GOP will be lost, they will have to deal with an incumbent in 4 years. We have to fight that again. Pence is stupid too. “

Two weeks later, when a colleague asked Clinesmith if he would reconsider his commitment to serving in the Trump administration, Clinesmith replied “Hell no” and added “Viva le Resistance”.

Prosecutors said in a written judgment that political bias may have led to Clinesmith’s wrongdoing.

“It is plausible that his strong political views and / or personal dislike of the current president made him more willing to engage in the fraudulent and unethical behavior for which he is guilty,” the prosecutor wrote. “It is impossible to know for sure.” How these views might have affected his criminal behavior has clearly shown the defendant that he did not perform his important duties at the FBI with the professionalism, integrity and objectivity required for such a sensitive job position. “

However, the FBI attorney could not have done much single-handedly to influence or fuel the Trump-Russia probe as he played a relatively minor role in the investigation. Additionally, his change to the email came in June 2017 at the end of Page’s surveillance by the FBI.

When Boasberg allowed Page to speak at Friday’s hearing, Judge asked Page to limit himself to comments on the implications of the FBI’s June 2017 surveillance motion, rather than the previous three surveillance orders the FBI had won, to sniff on Page.

In its quest to get Clinesmith to jail, Durham’s office cited some unexpected examples on Friday. Among them was the 14-day prison sentence imposed in 2018 on another Trump campaign foreign affairs adviser, George Papadopoulos, for lying in the early stages of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.

“According to the government’s assessment, the defendant’s behavior was more egregious than that of Mr Papadopoulos,” Scarpelli told the judge. “Mr. Clinesmith was an FBI employee. He was someone the agents could have trusted.”

Shur called the government analogy “comparing apples and oranges”.

Boasberg also appeared to oppose the government’s settlement, saying while others may have tried to protect themselves or their allies, Clinesmith appeared to have gotten no benefit whatsoever from his crime.

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