Thus far in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into the origins of a federal investigation of alleged Russian collusion in President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, only one individual has been indicted on criminal charges.
According to recent reports, however, the former FBI attorney who pleaded guilty to making false statements in the pursuit of a Foreign Intelligence Services Act warrant is facing a recommended six-month term behind bars.
A pattern of lies
That is the sentence federal prosecutors believe is fair for the admitted actions of Kevin Clinesmith, whose case has now entered the sentencing phase.
The Department of Justice inspector general’s review of the FISA warrants obtained in 2016 and 2017 to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page led to the discovery of Clinesmith’s criminal dishonesty.
While Page had been accused of possibly working as a Russian agent, the IG’s review revealed that the FBI was aware before the first warrant was pursued that he had actually been a source for another government agency — presumably the FBI. That information was missing from the first three applications for warrants to investigate Page and the Trump campaign.
After Page began to state publicly that he had been a government source, Clinesmith reportedly altered an email to read that Page “was not a source” in an apparent effort to avoid embarrassment and possible court testimony to explain the prior oversight, thus undermining the basis on which agents were spying on him.
Clinesmith reportedly compounded that lie by offering similarly misleading information to FBI colleagues seeking clarification as well as investigators questioning him about his actions.
“A life otherwise characterized by hard work”
In a sentencing memo filed on Friday, federal prosecutors requested that he face “a sentence of incarceration that is at least between the middle and upper end” of relevant sentencing guidelines, which range from zero to six months in federal prison.
Noting the seriousness of the crime, which they argued “undermined the integrity” of the investigation process, prosecutors determined that he had “fueled public distrust of the FBI and of the entire FISA program itself.”
As a result, his incarceration was necessary to send a message to others in the government that such wanton dishonesty would not be tolerated, they explained.
Of course, Clinesmith’s attorneys also filed a brief in response to the memo, asking the court to spare him from any time in prison.
While acknowledging his “grievous mistake,” the attorneys nonetheless described it as an “aberration in a life otherwise characterized by hard work, determination, and dedication to the service of others” in requesting sentencing leniency.