FBI lawyer from Russia investigation sentenced to probation for Carter Page FISA warrant false statement
Posted January 29, 2021 12:48 p.m. EST
CNN — Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith will not serve jail time for changing a document that backed a surveillance warrant of former Trump associate Carter Page during the early Russia investigation, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
Clinesmith was sentenced to serve 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service.
Clinesmith pleaded guilty to falsifying information in an email that wrongly said Page had not been a CIA source previously, as the FBI sought to renew a foreign surveillance warrant for Page in 2017. Clinesmith is the only defendant charged in the Durham investigation, which has looked closely at the FBI's work on the early Russia investigation, including Page's ties to Russia and others with ties to the Trump 2016 campaign.
"Anybody who's watched what Mr. Clinesmith has suffered is not someone who would readily act in that fashion," Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court in DC said, somewhat rejecting the Justice Department's argument that Clinesmith receiving a harsh sentence would help deter others from crime and that he was akin to Mueller investigation defendants who lied and went to prison.
Boasberg, who is also the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's presiding judge, notably said he believes the warrant still may have been signed for surveillance of Page, who in 2017 was a former Trump foreign policy adviser who was under investigation because of his ties to Russians.
"Even if Mr. Clinesmith had been accurate about Dr. Page's relationship with the other government agency, the warrant may well have been signed and the surveillance authorized," Boasberg said, though he also noted other mistakes in the Page foreign intelligence surveillance applications.
Clinesmith obtained no real personal benefit from his actions and had no active intent to harm, the judge also noted.
"My view of the evidence is that Mr. Clinesmith likely believed that what he said about Dr. Page was true," Boasberg said.
"He was saving himself some work taking an inappropriate shortcut," but didn't intend to give wrong information about Page, the judge added.
Boasberg also noted how the Justice Department inspector general found Clinesmith wasn't acting with political bias -- a point the Trump administration tried to make repeatedly to undermine the Mueller investigation that grew out of the FBI's work on Russia in 2016 and 2017.
Clinesmith apologized to his federal agency colleagues, the court, the public and his family at the sentencing hearing.