Skip to main content

Former FBI Lawyer Kevin Clinesmith Officially Admits Altering Email Used to Surveil Carter Page: ‘At the Time, I Believed…’


Days after it was reported that former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinsemith would admit that he altered a document that was used in a FISA warrant application to surveil former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, Clinesmith appeared before a federal judge and admitted as much.

Last Thursday on Fox News, Attorney General William Barr teased that there would be a development, albeit an unsurprising one, in John Durham’s investigation of the Russia investigation. That was a somewhat clear indication that there would be an update in Clinesmith’s case. The next day, it was reported that Clinesmith, 38, would plead guilty to committing a federal crime.

In Nov. 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz issued a criminal referral for Clinesmith’s role in the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page. According to Horowitz’s final report on FISA abuse, Clinesmith–identified as “Office of General Counsel attorney“–altered an email used in a surveillance renewal application.

According to Horowitz, an FBI “Supervisory Special Agent 2” had requested “a definitive answer to whether Page had ever been a source for another U.S. government agency before he signed the final renewal application” of the third FISA warrant application seeking to maintain the wiretap on the former Trump 2016 campaign advisor.

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) liaison told Clinesmith that Page “did, in fact, have a prior relationship with that other agency,” the IG report continued. Clinesmith, however, “altered the liaison’s email by inserting the words ‘not a source’ into it, thus making it appear that the liaison had said that Page was ‘not a source’ for the other agency” and passed it along to the FBI’s supervisory agent.

“Relying upon this altered email, [Clinesmith] signed the third renewal application that again failed to disclose Page’s past relationship with the other agency,” Horowitz concluded. Page was never charged.

On Wednesday, Clinesmith told footnote hater U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg over the phone that, “At the time, I believed the information I was providing in the email was accurate […].”

“[B]ut I am agreeing the information I inserted was not originally there and I inserted the information,” Clinesmith said according to the Washington Post.

Boasberg followed up by asking, “You agree you intentionally altered the email to include information not originally in the email?”

Clinesmith answered with a simple, “Yes, your honor.”

Sentencing for the false statement has been set for Dec. 10. Clinesmith is likely looking at months behind bars rather than years.

President Donald Trump has said publicly that Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney Durham have a golden opportunity to cement their legacies by prosecuting bigger fish—not just “lower guys” like Clinesmith. Trump mentioned fired FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, claiming they lied to Congress and conspired to jail former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Durham will reportedly interview Brennan as soon as Friday.

Colin Kalmbacher and Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.

[Image via Clinesmith for Columbia Heights AND campaign]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.