FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith’s guilty plea suggests another area ripe for inquiry: FBI Agent Stephen Somma’s misrepresentation of Trump campaign details to a secret federal court.
Cleveland's article largely focuses on the Horowitz FISA report and, specifically, the role of Case Agent 1--Stephen Somma--in persuading DoJ Office of Intelligence attorney Stu Evans that Carter Page's past cooperation with the CIA wasn't relevant to the FISA application targeting Page. Stu Evans, not entirely coincidentally, was a thorn in the side of Peter Strzok and the Crossfire Hurricane (CH) Team in their quest for a FISA on Page, but Evans is now reported to be cooperating extensively with John Durham.
I won't repeat the details that Cleveland provides, but I do want to suggest a line of inquiry that Durham may be looking into--or, more likely, looked into long ago.
The crux of the situation was that Somma and others in the FBI's New York Field Office (NYO) had long been aware of Carter Page's relationship with the CIA. Such a relationship was totally unsurprising given Page's background--it would have expected. Moreover, as I've pointed out, Page informed the FBI of that relationship the very first time the FBI contacted him. In other words, it wasn't just that the CIA informed the FBI about their relationship with Page in 2016--the FBI was aware of that relationship dating back to 2009, and it didn't terminate until 2013 at the earliest. The reason it terminated was because Page became a key cooperating witness (CW) for the FBI against several Russian Intelligence Officers in New York.
So, when Stu Evans asked Somma, 'Hey, what about Carter Page's claim that he was a source for the CIA', Somma was forced to scramble, to improvise. Here's what his response was (as we've previously discussed)--I quote Cleveland:
The IG report expressly stated that “in late September 2016,” an attorney with the Office of Intelligence who was “assisting on the FISA application,” “explicitly asked” Case Agent 1 “about Page’s prior relationship with this other agency.” And that “Case Agent 1 did not accurately describe the nature and extent of the information the FBI received from the other agency.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, Case Agent 1--Stephen Somma--deliberately misled Stu Evans, i.e., he lied to him:
Specifically, in a draft of the FISA application, the OI Attorney asked Case Agent 1 whether there was “any truth to Page’s claim that he has provided information to [another U.S. government agency]—was he considered a source/asset/whatever?” In reply, Case Agent 1 inserted this comment: “He did meet with [the other U.S. government agency], however, it’s dated and I would argue it was/is outside scope, I don’t think we need it in. It was years ago, when he was in Moscow. If you want to keep it, I can get the language from the [August 17 Memorandum] we were provided [by the other U.S. government agency].”
It wasn't just when Page "was in Moscow," it was for years when Page was based in New York (although traveling frequently, but no longer residing in Moscow). As we've seen, the formal relationship of Page with the CIA lasted up to 2013 when, in essence, the FBI stepped in. Also, it wasn't just that Page had "met" with the CIA--the CIA had maintained a formal designation for Page as an "operational contact" until 2013 and did not terminate Page due to any wrongdoing or suspicions about him.
So, two issues are raised.
The first is that not only did Somma misrepresent Page's relationship to the CIA, he also misrepresented Page's role in cooperating with the FBI against Russian IOs.
The second issue is this. I don't believe that Somma--a "street" agent--would have taken it upon himself to deceive a DoJ attorney. After all, it wasn't just Stu Evans who would have known about this. As we've seen, the vetting of a FISA application goes through multiple levels of review within the FBI. Others would have known about this issue--Cleveland points to Clinesmith. I suggest that when Somma was asked about this issue by Evans, he would have consulted with others within the FBI who were "in the know" about CH and Carter Page--Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, even others like Andrew McCabe?--who were anxious to get the FISA approved ASAP. They would have suggested to Somma how to reply to Evans. We know that Lisa Page and Strzok complained about Stu Evans and that Page suggested getting McCabe involved with Evans directly to pressure him to approve the FISA.
This may be the real importance of Stephen Somma, as a cooperating witness for John Durham.