Kevin Clinesmith’s guilty plea should deeply concern the FBI agents who investigated the Trump campaign links with Russia, Senator Lindsey Graham has said.
“Something tells me that Mr. Clinesmith knows where the bodies are buried, and if I were in the FBI working on Crossfire Hurricane, I would be very worried right now,” Graham, a close Trump ally and chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told Fox News’ Hannity on Friday.
“An FBI lawyer in charge of reviewing warrants is going to plead guilty to falsifying documents to the FISA court against a Trump adviser, and if you are lucky, you’ll find this in the mainstream media for 30 seconds.”
What is the plea about?
Clinesmith’s lawyer announced on Friday that his client would plead guilty to falsifying a CIA email to help justify the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
He appears eager to concede a mere mistake but no broader conspiracy against Donald Trump by Obama officials.
“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” the lawyer, Justin Shur, said on Friday. “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.”
Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer who had been critical of Trump during his time at the bureau, is expected to admit that he had altered the email to suggest that Page had never been a source for the CIA in the past.
Why does it matter?
The documentation Clinesmith had provided to the FBI was intended to back up Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants it presented to a court to make the case for wiretapping Page.
The FBI admitted this January that two of the four FISA warrants that approved Page’s surveillance were invalid because the government made “material misstatements” in obtaining them.
Clinesmith’s error was uncovered last year as part of an investigation led by John Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of Operation Crossfire, a probe into possible links between Donald Trump and Russia launched by the FBI three months before the 2016 election.
Republicans insist that the probe – which was followed by the two-year Robert Mueller investigation but found, just like Mueller, no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion – was a political ploy by the Obama administration to damage Trump.
Disclosures made in July revealed that FBI agents working on Crossfire Hurricane were inserted into an August 2016 security briefing to covertly gather information on Trump campaign officials and the then-Republican candidate as well.
“That's just the beginning ... what happened should never happen again,” Donald Trump said of Clinesmith on Friday. “He is pleading guilty, terrible thing, terrible thing. The fact is they spied on my campaign and they got caught and you'll be hearing more.”