This week Kevin Clinesmith, an FBI attorney, was formally charged by U.S. Attorney Durham with having deliberately falsified a document provided to the FISA court as part of a request to extend the surveillance of Trump associate Carter Page. Clinesmith is expected to enter a plea of guilty to the charge in the near future.
Per what has become media SOP, most of the so-called “mainstream media” largely ignored this event. Right-wing and pro-Trump media outlets covered it and then moved on to what they considered more pressing matters. There was little context or analysis of the implications of this development.
Let’s correct that.
First – the context.
All of the FBI’s applications for FISA warrants to surveil Page were predicated on his extensive contacts with Russian nationals. The court was led to believe that these contacts suggested some nefarious intent. These insinuations were made within the broader suggestion that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to manipulate the impending 2016 Presidential election.
In fact, Carter Page had been reporting to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on his Russian contacts for years. He was not working for the Russians. He was working for us. Obviously, if that fact became known to the court, no warrants would be issued for the FBI to surveil an American intelligence asset.
So, the FBI on three separate occasions simply failed to mention to the FISA court that they knew Page was working with CIA. Unfortunately, though, for them, the issue kept resurfacing. The question kept being raised. Ultimately, left with no choice, other than to tell the truth, Clinesmith was forced to materially alter an email from the CIA.
That email stated directly and unambiguously that Page was a CIA source. Clinesmith changed it. When he was done the email said exactly the opposite of what it had originally. That altered document was then provided to the court by the FBI and represented to be true.
This was not a mistake. It was not a minor issue, an oversight, or anything of this kind. This was a deliberate, calculated act designed to pervert the judicial process, mislead a court and subject a man innocent of any wrongdoing to surveillance and spying.
Now for the implications.
Clinesmith did not decide to take this step on his own. He did not wake up one morning and decide just for kicks to go out and persecute an innocent American citizen. He was at best a mid-level attorney at FBI and not in a position to make major decisions.
Someone ordered him to make this alteration to the email received from the CIA. Clinesmith knows who that was. He is preparing a guilty plea. Without question, there will be an agreement with U.S. Attorney Durham negotiated as part of that plea. Pursuant to that agreement, Clinesmith will identify the individual or individuals who directed him to change the email and lie to the FISA court.
Clinesmith and the individual or individuals who directed him to change the email were not the only individuals at FBI who would have seen the incoming email from CIA or been privy to discussions with that agency about Page’s work as a source for U.S. intelligence. At least some of the individuals who were aware of Page’s work with CIA would have also seen the documents ultimately provided to the FISA court which deliberately misrepresented the facts.
None of them said anything. None of them protested. They did not, because they were all in on the lie.
Every single one of those individuals, as federal law enforcement officers or attorneys, is guilty of having been part of the conspiracy to unlawfully target Carter Page. Since the only rationale for targeting Page was as part of an effort to target the Trump campaign writ large, every single one of those individuals is by implication part of an attempt to unlawfully influence an election and, ultimately, to depose a sitting President.
It was not only FBI or DOJ personnel who would have seen Clinesmith’s alteration to the CIA memo. Former CIA Director John Brennan has testified openly that he created what he calls a “fusion cell” at CIA headquarters to quarterback all efforts directed at the Trump campaign and the possibility of collusion between that campaign and Moscow. The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation took place under the broader umbrella of the operation, as yet unnamed, run out of this fusion cell.
The CIA personnel, including Brennan, who were part of this cell would have had complete visibility into what the FBI was doing in Crossfire Hurricane. They would have, in short, seen the final application to the FISA court prepared by Clinesmith. They would have known what the original email from CIA to Clinesmith, likely sent by a junior, working-level CIA employee not part of the conspiracy or “fusion cell” said. They would have known that the application contained a deliberate lie.
And, yet they also apparently said nothing. There can be only one explanation for that. They, like all those at FBI who knew the truth and did nothing, did not act, because they were part of the conspiracy. They were also in on the lie.
There will be those, particularly on the left, who will want to now claim that Clinesmith acted on his own, motivated perhaps by animus toward Trump, and that there is nothing else to see here. Nothing can be further from the truth. Any pretense that Clinesmith simply erred or exercised poor judgment will be removed when he pleads guilty and admits intent.
Then the rest of the shoes will begin to drop. Clinesmith will begin to name names. The rats will begin to flee the ship and save themselves.
This may be the first guilty plea, but there will be many more.