The former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email to help obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap authorization against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page was sentenced to one year of probation and no prison time on Friday.
Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the Justice Department’s efforts seeking up to six months behind bars, instead giving Kevin Clinesmith probation, 400 hours of community service within a year, and a special assessment of $100 to the court but no fine.
Clinesmith, who worked on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and on the FBI’s Trump-Russia inquiry, as well as special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, admitted in August that he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew FISA surveillance authority against Page, who had been a foreign policy adviser to former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Clinesmith edited a CIA email in 2017 to state that Page was “not a source” for the CIA when it had told the bureau on multiple occasions that Page had been an “operational contact” for the agency.
“Mr. Clinesmith likely believed that what he said was true,” Boasberg concluded on Friday, saying, “I do not believe he was attempting to achieve an end he knew was wrong.” The judge added that “it is not clear to me that the fourth FISA warrant would not have been signed but for this error. … Even if Mr. Clinesmith had been accurate about Mr. Page’s relationship with the other government agency, the warrant may well have been signed and the surveillance authorized.”
U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was elevated to special counsel in October, and Clinesmith dueled in court over how long the lawyer should spend behind bars. Clinesmith’s team has argued for leniency, while the federal prosecutor from Connecticut asked the court to sentence Clinesmith to up to six months in prison.
“As a licensed attorney and an officer of the Court, the defendant took an oath, was bound by professional and ethical obligations, and should have been well-aware of this duty of candor. … His deceptive conduct … was antithetical to the duty of candor and eroded the FISC’s confidence in the accuracy of all previous FISA applications worked on by the defendant,” Durham wrote in December. “The defendant’s conduct also undermined the integrity of the FISA process and struck at the very core of what the FISC fundamentally relies on in reviewing FISA applications.”