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FBI Lawyer Fired For Falsifying FISA Doc in Trump Case Reinstated by DC Bar

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


The FBI senior attorney who was charged with falsifying a document filed with Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in connection with a surveillance warrant to spy on a 2016 Trump campaign adviser has been reinstated by the DC Bar Association.

Kevin Clinesmith, who was fired by the FBI after being convicted for the felony, only got probation for his violation, though generally, such a conviction would be grounds for permanent disbarment. But not this time, as Just the News reports.

The outlet noted further:

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In August of 2020, Clinesmith pleaded guilty to doctoring an email that was then used to justify a surveillance warrant that targeted former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. As a result, Clinesmith was sentenced in January to 12 months probation, though the D.C. bar did not seek his disbarment. 

In June 2017, Clinesmith changed the wording in a CIA email to state that Page was “not a source” for the spy agency, when in fact Clinesmith and the FBI had been informed on multiple occasions that Page had been a CIA asset for years.

Had the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court understood as much, the information would have severely undermined the FBI’s argument for electronically monitoring Page on suspicions of him acting as a Russian agent. 

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Five months after Clinesmith copped a guilty plea, the D.C. Bar opted to temporarily suspend him pending a review of his case and a hearing. Normally, Just the News pointed out, the association automatically suspends licenses of any attorney who pleads guilty to a felony charge.

But in September, the associate made a decision to remove him from suspension for ‘time served’ and place him back on “active member” status in “good standing.”

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“Before quietly making that decision, however, records indicate the bar did not check with his probation officer to see if he had violated the terms of his sentence or if he had completed the community service requirement of volunteering 400 hours,” RealClearInvestigations’ Paul Sperry reported.

“To fulfill the terms of his probation, Clinesmith volunteered at Street Sense Media in Washington but stopped working at the nonprofit group last summer, which has not been previously reported,” Sperry added.

“From the records, it also appears bar officials did not consult with the FBI’s Inspection Division, which has been debriefing Clinesmith to determine if he was involved in any other surveillance abuses tied to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, in addition to the one used against Page. Clinesmith’s cooperation was one of the conditions of the plea deal he struck with Special Counsel John Durham. If he fails to fully cooperate, including turning over any relevant materials or records in his possession, he could be subject to perjury or obstruction charges,” Sperry reported.

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The report goes on to say that Clinesmith, who handled some of the bureau’s most high-profile and most sensitive investigations, may not be out of the woods yet and could still be in Durham’s sights regarding other aspects of his probe.

Sperry writes that his special counsel mandate is actually much broader than most people know or understand.

“In addition to examining the legal justification for the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ probe, it also includes examining the bureau’s handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of an unsecured email server, which she set up in her basement to send and receive classified information, and her destruction of more than 30,000 subpoenaed emails she generated while running the State Department,” he noted.

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“As assistant FBI general counsel in the bureau’s national security branch, Clinesmith played an instrumental role in that investigation, which was widely criticized by FBI and Justice Department veterans, along with ethics watchdogs, as fraught with suspicious irregularities,” Sperry’s report continued.

“Clinesmith also worked on former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 Trump campaign as the key attorney linking his office to the FBI. He was the only headquarters lawyer assigned to Mueller. Durham’s investigators are said to be looking into the Mueller team’s actions as well,” he added.

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