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Former FBI lawyer expected to plead guilty in review of Russia inquiry

The New York Times reports:

A former F.B.I. lawyer intends to plead guilty after he was charged with falsifying a document as part of a deal with prosecutors conducting their own criminal inquiry of the Russia investigation, according his lawyer and court documents made public on Friday.

The lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, 38, who was assigned to the Russia investigation, plans to admit that he altered an email from the C.I.A. that investigators relied on to seek renewed court permission in 2017 for a secret wiretap on the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who had at times provided information to the spy agency. Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyer said he made a mistake while trying to clarify facts for a colleague.

President Trump immediately promoted the plea agreement as proof that the Russia investigation was illegitimate and politically motivated, opening a White House news conference by calling Mr. Clinesmith “corrupt” and the deal “just the beginning.” Mr. Trump has long been blunt about viewing the investigation by the prosecutor examining the earlier inquiry, John H. Durham, as political payback whose fruits he would like to see revealed in the weeks before the election.

Attorney General William P. Barr has portrayed Mr. Durham’s work as rectifying what he sees as injustices by officials who sought in 2016 to understand links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s covert operation to interfere in the election.

Mr. Clinesmith had written texts expressing opposition to Mr. Trump. But prosecutors did not reveal any evidence in charging documents that showed Mr. Clinesmith’s actions were part of any broader conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump. And the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has found that law enforcement officials had sufficient reason to open the Russia investigation, known inside the F.B.I. as Crossfire Hurricane, and found no evidence that they acted with political bias.

As part of their efforts to dissuade prosecutors from charging Mr. Clinesmith, his lawyers argued that his motives were benign, and other evidence indicated that he had not tried to hide the C.I.A. email from his colleagues.

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyer, Justin Shur, said in a statement. “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. Clinesmith, who resigned over the matter last year, was expected to be charged in federal court in Washington with a single felony count of making a false statement. A spokesman for Mr. Durham declined to comment. [Continue reading…]

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