Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith given probation after guilty plea in John Durham probe
Attorney General Bill Barr says Special Counsel John Durham is 'making good progress' in his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service Friday after pleading guilty to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
Clinesmith in August pleaded guilty 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."
U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia James Boasberg on Friday during Clinesmith's sentencing hearing said Clinesmith had suffered by losing his job and standing in the eye of a media hurricane.
Boasberg gave him 12 months probation, 400 hours of community service, and no fine.
Government prosecutors had been asking for Clinesmith to spend several months in jail, but Clinesmith's defense had been advocating for probation only.
"[He] lost his job, and his government service is what has given his life much of its meaning," Boasberg said Friday. "He was also earning $150,000 a year and who knows where the earnings go now. He may be disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, you may never be able to work in the national security field again. These are substantial penalties."
Boasberg added: "What is more, he went from being an obscure career government lawyer to standing in the eye of a media hurricane. He has been threatened, vilified and abused on a nationwide scale."
Clinesmith was initially 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 had 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.
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.
Clinesmith told the court on Friday that he was "deeply ashamed" and regretted his actions.
"Altering the email has forever changed the course of my life," Clinesmith said. "I have lost the means to provide for my growing family...lost the ability to give back to my nation... the shame and remorse will stay with me forever."
Justice Department prosecutor Anthony Scarpelli called Clinesmith's crime, "incredibly egregious," adding that his actions have had negative consequences for, "The FBI, the DOJ, the FISC and the American public."
Carter Page was also present at the sentencing hearing and told the court his life had been, "severely affected," by Clinesmith's actions, saying at certain points during the ordeal he felt like a, "man without a family," constantly under media scrutiny.
However, notably, Page asked Boasberg to show Mr. Clinesmith leniency.
Clinesmith, though, is the first and only criminal charge thus far stemming from Durham’s investigation, which began in May 2019, shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller completed his yearlong investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Last month, former Attorney General Bill Barr appointed Durham as special counsel to continue investigating the origins of the Russia probe through the Biden Administration.
Barr notified the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, in a letter dated Dec. 1 obtained by Fox News, that Durham would be special counsel.
"On May 13, 2019, I directed John Durham, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to investigate certain intelligence and law-enforcement activities surrounding the 2016 presidential election," Barr wrote. "Although I had expected Mr. Durham to complete his work by the summer of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as additional information he uncovered, prevented him from doing so.
"In advance of the presidential election, I decided to appoint Mr. Durham as a Special Counsel to provide him and his team with the assurance that they could complete their work, without regard to the outcome of the election," Barr wrote, adding that he appointed Durham with "the powers and authority of a Special Counsel" on Oct. 19.
In a scope order, obtained by Fox News, Barr stated that Durham as special counsel "is authorized to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III."
Under U.S. code, the special counsel would produce a "confidential report" and is ordered to "submit to the Attorney General a final report, and such interim reports as he deems appropriate in a form that will permit public dissemination."
Fox News reported last month that Durham has expanded his team and is making "excellent progress" in his investigation.
It is unclear, at this point, who those prosecutors are.
Fox News reported in May that Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri who was tapped by the Justice Department in February to review the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, was helping with Durham’s investigation. President Trump pardoned Flynn last month.
Also in May, Fox News reported that now former acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy Shea was also assisting with components of Durham’s investigation.
It is unclear, at this point, whether Jensen and Shea are continuing to work with Durham, and who the additions to his team are.
Meanwhile, a source familiar with the investigation told Fox News last month that Durham, who is the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, is now "frequently" working out of Washington, D.C. Durham and some members of his team had been doing their work out of New Haven, Conn., over the summer.
Fox News' David Spunt contributed to this report.