This is sure to break the spirit of some, and reinforce the views of others, that Attorney General Barr and now Special Counsel Durham are actively engaged in a grand cover-up along with FBI Director Chris Wray regarding the FISA warrant obtained against Dr. Carter Page.
To all those true believers I say — get over it. The simple facts were always obvious — from the day they were uncovered by the Inspector General and later reported in his Report on Four FISAs. Kevin Clinesmith was a partisan Democrat supporter of Hillary Clinton who, prior to the election, believed he was a central player in what he viewed as one of the most historic investigations of espionage ever done by the FBI. He was going to be part of the crew that revealed Donald Trump to be the “Stalingrad Candidate.” Clinesmith was positive that Donald Trump was a Russian operative, with his election being the culmination of years worth of planning by Vladamir Putin. That meant those who Candidate Trump surrounded himself with as part of his Campaign likely had some role vis-a-vis the “Russian Connection.”
Enter Dr. Carter Page. He went to Russia after all. He had some business affairs in the Russian energy sector. He talked to Russians in the United States. Russian intelligence agents had attempted to recruit him three years earlier.
Of course, Dr. Carter Page was a Russian agent — all Clinesmith and the others at the FBI needed was enough time to dig out the evidence. Clinesmith was sure it was there — it had to be. If Donald Trump was a Russian Agent — and how could he have ever beaten Hillary Clinton in the election if he was not? — then those who Donald Trump relied upon to get him to the White House were part of the operation and they needed to be exposed.
But then, nine months after the surveillance of Dr. Page first began, an inconvenient email landed in his inbox in response to an inquiry he made of the CIA. “Source check — what kind of relationship was there between the CIA and Dr. Carter Page in the past?” Answer – “Dr. Page was a source who provided the CIA with information on his contacts with Russian intelligence operatives, same as we told you in August 2016.”
Thought bubble over Clinesmith’s head:
“Oh no. Horrible footnote time. Tell FISC FBI had information from the beginning Dr. Page was providing information about Russians to the CIA. SSA I told Page was “not a source” is going to think badly of me. What will my next Performance Review by my supervisor say? Let’s see …. if I just add a few words in here. DONE!!! Problem solved, crisis avoided. We can go back to the task at hand — proving Trump is a Russian Agent because he thought Dr. Page could be an asset to his campaign on Russian issues. Log off, go home.”
Does any of this mean that Kevin Clinesmith “acted alone”? No.
If the investigation has shown that Clinesmith truly acted on his own in changing the email, and forwarding it to the Supervisor who asked him “Do you have it in writing?”, is that “proof” that he’s getting the “Lee Harvey Oswald” patsy treatment from the “Deep State”?
No. Read the civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Dr. Page by friends of mine — Leslie McAdoo Gordon, John Pierce, and Lawson Pedigo. There’s some great work there.
But it most definitely shows that the effort to get a FISA warrant on Dr. Page when there was ABSOLUTELY ZERO FACTUAL BASIS TO DO SO was the combined work of a couple of dozen people — all playing their particular roles.
There were many members of the FBI, including senior management, involved in orchestrating or furthering the entire Russia hoax investigation. A subset of individuals was responsible for seeking the Carter Page FISA application in September and October 2016, and the continuing with the FISA surveillance of Dr. Page from October 2016 to September 2017. They were all aided in their efforts by their shared psychosis that Donald Trump worked with Vladamir Putin and the Russian government to win the 2016 election.
But the alteration of that email was a key event in continuing the FISA surveillance from June to September 2017. Had the email from Clinesmith’s CIA liaison be forwarded, as requested by the Supervisor, without the inserted text, the 3rd extension application likely never gets filed. As revealed by the IG Report, there was already a sentiment among investigators that the surveillance was not being productive, and the FISA warrant should have ended in June 2017.
The truth is that the FBI had the information it needed in August 2016 that undercut the claims made to the FISC about Page’s prior contacts with Russian intelligence agents, and his reporting on those contacts to the CIA. The IG report does not contain a satisfying explanation of who in the FBI saw that information in August 2016 when it was first provided, nor does it offer an explanation from the FBI officials involved as to why that information was ignored in August 2016 in their haste to get the FISA warrant in place.
I expect that is among the first issues of further inquiry Dr. Page’s attorneys will be engaged in as part of the discovery process in his case.
So, let’s look for a moment at what Durham has advised the Court in his Sentencing Statement.
First, the agreed-upon Sentencing Guideline Range is 0-6 months. The operative facts of the offense dictate the guideline range, not — for the most part — the gravity of the circumstances surrounding the offense. Those can play a role in the Court’s ultimate decision on what the correct sentence should be, but as purely an “academic” exercise of the mechanical application of the facts to the guidelines, the Adjusted Offense Level is 6, and the Range is 0-6 months in custody.
The prosecutors have asked for a sentence of incarceration, between the middle and top of the range. That’s not hard to decipher since that would be a range of 4-6 months so the prosecution’s request is for 5 months.
The sentencing judge has the discretion to impose a sentence greater than the guideline range — he could impose a sentence all the way up to the statutory maximum of 60 months. The circumstances do justify an upward departure in my view. While the impact of Clinesmith’s criminal conduct can be traced only to the granting of the third extension, and not to the original application and first two extensions, Clinesmith had a role in the investigation from the very beginning. His exchanges both in emails and text messages with more than one other FBI official make it clear he understood how it would impact the investigation if it was revealed that the FBI had known since the beginning of the FISA warrant process that Dr. Page had been providing information about his Russian contacts during the timeframe identified by the FBI that he was working on behalf of Russian Intelligence.
Clinesmith knew in June 2017 that the broader investigation had generated little of actual substance that confirmed the “Trump-Russia” connection, and all of what happened in June 2017 did so against the backdrop of the Special Counsel’s Office taking over the investigation from the FBI Crossfire Hurricane team in May 2017. If the SCO learned that the FISA surveillance of Dr. Page was based upon suppositions that were contradicted by information in the hands of the CH investigators in August 2016, that would hardly recommend those investigators as candidates to remain with the investigation as part of the SCO.
So, Clinesmith covered up that information — he covered it up by altering the email to make it say what he needed it to say in order to get past the moment. He did it so the third extension would go through. Who would ever find out? The third extension would be the final one. FISA warrants never end up being scrutinized in a courtroom like search warrants.
So, he added the four words in order to avoid having to explain 1) why the FBI had never disclosed what they were told by the CIA in August 2016, and 2) because adding the words made the email say what he had already represented to his supervisor and the Supervisory Special Agent about Dr. Page’s historical involvement with the CIA.
Clinesmith has been thoroughly questioned about the entirely of his knowledge about CH. The prosecution never includes in a Sentencing Statement everything they have learned from a Defendant so there is no surprise that the Sentencing Statement doesn’t mention his interviews or detail what he has said.
In discussing Clinesmith’s cooperation that the Court should be aware of — because it was required in his plea agreement — the prosecution confirms that Clinesmith has been interviewed by the FBI Inspection Division about other FISA warrants he was involved with. This disclosure is being badly misrepresented. In his particular position in the FBI Office of General Counsel, Clinesmith provided needed legal advice on many — dozens? — FISA applications that are completely unrelated to the Russia Hoax. There were more than 1,500 such applications submitted in 2017 alone. The interview with the Inspection Divison was done for the purpose of having Clinesmith disclose any similar “integrity” issues that might be relevant to those unrelated FISA applications in which he played a role. The Sentencing Statement merely confirms to the Court that Clinesmith has satisfied that term of his plea agreement.
There is no “four-dimensional” chess being played here, with Kevin Clinesmith being a pawn willingly sacrificed by the Grand Masters at the board.
But I’m certain I’ll be reading all about how that is absolutely true in the days ahead.