21:29 GMT18 September 2020
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    The plea plays into the hands of President Donald Trump's accusations against the FBI, claiming that the agency's investigation into now disproven allegations of collusion with Russia was politically motivated and not based on hard evidence.

    Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith plans to plead guilty in an investigation into the possibly illegal origins of the Russia probe and the spying on Trump's campaign in 2016, The New York Times reported. Clinesmith is expected to admit that he falsified a document that contributed to the start of the investigation against Trump and his team.

    The former lawyer will reportedly confess to altering a letter received from the CIA that allowed the FBI to renew a FISA surveillance order on Trump's campaign manager Carter Page in 2017. Such an order allows the communications of a person suspected of being a foreign agent to be wiretapped. Clinesmith's lawyers have previously claimed that their client altered the email in order to "clarify" facts in it for a colleague.

    Page was hired by Trump's campaign in 2016 and attracted the attention of FBI agents, who suspected him of potentially being subject to Russian recruitment efforts. The FBI asked the CIA for the information about Page, and the intelligence agency explained that he regularly provided it with information on his contacts in Russia, thereby making him a CIA source.

    This information, which would essentially remove the suspicions of Page, was played down by an FBI officer who handled it in 2016. But it was Clinesmith who turned the matter upside down in 2017 by editing the email and removing the parts that mentioned Page as being a "source" for the CIA, thus enabling the FBI to renew their FISA warrant.

    Proof of a Witch Hunt?

    US President Donald Trump has long argued that the Russia probe and wiretapping of his campaign were politically motivated, calling the investigation a "witch hunt". However, it's not certain that Clinesmith's plea, should it happen, will support his accusations. According to The New York Times, prosecutors do not intend to announce that the former FBI lawyer's actions were part of a plan in a larger conspiracy.

    Such an outcome would go in line with previous preliminary conclusions of the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael Horowitz. He earlier stated that despite committing numerous grave mistakes in handling the Russia probe and FISA warrants, there were no signs that the FBI was biased against Trump in its actions and had enough reasons to open an investigation into the then-GOP candidate.

    The Russia probe was eventually taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who saw it through to the end. In his final report, Mueller said that there was no evidence that Trump and his campaign had colluded with the Kremlin to rig the 2016 presidential election – something that POTUS had been saying from the very beginning of the probe. He, however, repeatedly lambasted the investigation for purportedly preventing him from acting efficiently as the president and focusing on running the country.

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    Tags:
    plea deal, plea, Donald Trump, Russia probe, US, Witch Hunt
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