A former FBI lawyer is set to plead guilty on Friday to making a false statement in connection with the Russia investigation, marking the first criminal charges arising from a review ordered by the Trump administration of the probe.
Kevin Clinesmith will admit altering an email that helped underpin the continued surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, in 2017.
Mr Page had been under surveillance from October 2016, with the original warrant for the wiretap renewed three times. Before the fourth and final warrant application was filed in June 2017, Mr Clinesmith sought clarification from the CIA about whether Mr Page had been a source.
A CIA liaison confirmed in an email that Mr Page was an operational contact, meaning a person who provided information but was not actively directed by the agency.
Mr Clinesmith subsequently passed on the email from the CIA to an FBI agent who was making the final warrant application, but added words stating that Mr Page was “not a ‘source'”.
The Department of Justice has been investigating Mr Clinesmith as part of a review ordered by William Barr, the US attorney-general, who has repeatedly criticised the probe into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia as an injustice against the president. The review has been led by John Durham, a long-serving US prosecutor.
The inspector-general of the justice department, Michael Horowitz, referred Mr Clinesmith for investigation last year. Mr Clinesmith left the FBI in September.
Mr Horowitz’s review of the surveillance of Mr Page found serious errors in the warrant applications, and made note of texts sent by Mr Clinesmith where he expressed opposition to Mr Trump.
However, Mr Horowitz did not conclude that the problems with the surveillance of Mr Page had resulted from a conspiracy against Mr Trump.
Mr Page had been surveilled by the FBI under wiretap warrants used against targets suspected of being foreign agents. His relationship with the CIA was not disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approved the surveillance warrants.
He was ultimately not accused of any wrongdoing in the Russia probe.
Justin Shur, Mr Clinesmith’s attorney, said on Friday that his client “deeply regrets having altered the email”.
“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,” Mr Shur said..
Mr Barr has repeatedly promised that there would be public revelations arising from Mr Durham’s investigation before the November presidential election.
On Thursday evening, he said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that “there are going to be developments, significant developments, before the election”.
He alluded to Mr Clinesmith’s guilty plea in that interview, saying: “Tomorrow, there will be a development in the case. You know, it’s not an earth-shattering development, but it is an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation.”