(Headline USA) A former FBI lawyer plans to plead guilty to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham‘s investigation into the probe of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign that were found to be non-existent.
Kevin Clinesmith is being charged in federal court in Washington and is expected to plead guilty to one count of making a false statement, his attorney Justin Shur told The Associated Press.
The plea marks a full-circle reversal of fortune for the notoriously biased line attorney, a relatively low-ranking official who, nonetheless, appeared to have taken a lead role in some of the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” interrogations.
Those included the perjury trap against , a Trump adviser who served a brief prison sentence as part of a plea deal for making a false statement to the FBI about his interactions with foreign intelligence sources.
Clinesmith’s indictment was widely anticipated after it came to light last year that he had altered an official email to suggest, falsely, that another former Trump adviser, Carter Page, was not working with the CIA.
That cast Page’s meetings with Russian officials in a different light amid accusations that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, and it enabled the FBI to proceed with its FISA warrant applications to spy on Page and other Trump officials.
“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Shur said.
“It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues, as he believed the information he relayed was accurate, but Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility,” he added.
His declared intent aside, subsequent investigations in Congress and the Justice Department inspector general’s office nonetheless revealed Clinesmith’s outrageous anti-Trump bias, including a post to a group-messaging platform that declared, “Viva le Resistance!”
After Trump won the election, Clinesmith subsequently complained in emails revealed by the IG report, “My g** d***ed name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff… So, who knows if that breaks to him what he is going to do.”
The case against Clinesmith is one element of the wrongdoing by the FBI, when it opened an investigation — with scant evidence or justification — into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.
The investigation has proceeded alongside a parallel effort by Senate Republicans to examine the Russia probe and as Attorney General William Barr has escalated his own criticism of the FBI’s probe.
Barr foreshadowed the legal action in a Fox News Channel interview on Thursday night in which he said there would be a development Friday that was “not earth shattering” but would be an indication that the investigation was moving along.
It remained unclear whether Clinesmith’s guilty plea was part of a negotiation to drop the more serious charges, or whether he was cooperating with the Durham probe as part of a potential plea deal.
Clinesmith was referred for potential prosecution by the department’s inspector general’s office last December following its internal review of the FBI’s role in the Russia hoax.
That review concluded that the FBI made significant errors and omissions as it applied for secret national security warrants to eavesdrop on Page.
Clinesmith told the inspector general that from his conversations he did not understand Page to be a source, or a “recruited asset,” or to have a direct relationship with another government agency.
Durham—the U.S. attorney for Connecticut and a veteran prosecutor with a history of special assignments from Washington—is expected to conclude his criminal investigation sometime before Labor Day.
Already, Democrats are clamoring that the potential criminal indictments of top Obama-era intelligence officials could taint the upcoming November election.
Others insist that the conspiracy to frame the Trump campaign and undermine the Republican administration is simply ‘old news.’
However, none of the intelligence officials linked to the scandal via now-declassified documents have yet faced any serious accountability beyond intra-department discipline.
Barr appointed Durham just weeks after special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his nearly two-year investigation.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press