Clinesmith’s lawyer, Justin Shur, contends his client “did not try to hide the C.I.A. email from other law enforcement officials as they sought the final renewal of the Page wiretap. Mr. Clinesmith had provided the unchanged C.I.A. email to Crossfire Hurricane agents and the Justice Department lawyer drafting the original wiretap application.”
Based on that I assumed that Clinesmith was trying to "share the blame". In other words, he was saying, in effect: "Hey, I changed the CIA email to mean the exact opposite of what it said, but the other agents and lawyers knew it. I'm not the only one to blame."
Now, however, I'm seeing accounts that are quite different, like this one from ABC:
"He will be pleading guilty," Clinesmith's attorney Justin Shur told ABC News in a statement Friday. "Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email. 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."
Whoa! You can't plead guilty to making a false statement under 18 USC 1001 if you didn't know the statement was false or fraudulent and intend to make it. Shur's statement--and he was, according to Shipwreckedcrew, a DoJ prosecutor for 5 years--is "not consistent with a guilty plea to a Section 1001 charge." No judge can accept a guilty plea to such a charge if the defendant claims he thought he was conveying "accurate" information.
The DoJ information against Clinesmith is, unfortunately, redacted. Here's what we have. The CIA email said:
“my recollection is that [Page] was or is …. [digraph]”.
When I read that I immediately recognized that "[digraph]" represented some CIA two-letter acronym that designated Page's exact relationship with the CIA in the way that the FBI also uses such designators: CW (cooperating witness), IA (informative asset), OA (operational asset), and so forth. The CIA's use of a designator of that sort is a clear indicator that Page was, in one way or another, recognized by the CIA as a "source." Thus, IG Michael Horowitz also wrote in his report that Page had been a CIA "operational contact" from 2008 to 2013--and I'm sure Horowitz didn't just make that up. That means Page was a CIA "source." No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The fact that the CIA could place a time period on their use of Page as an operational contact is a surefire indication that Page had a recognized, formal relationship with the CIA.
Clinesmith changed that passage to read:
“my recollection is that [Page] was or is … and not a source ….”
Clinesmith provided no notation to indicate that he had amended the email in any way. He presented it as if the email was the one sent by the CIA.
In the real world, how do you claim that that is not a falsehood? That you didn't intend to misrepresent your judgment as reflecting the judgment of whoever wrote the document that you altered?
As a former agent myself, and a lawyer, I can't imagine doing something like that. Even if Clinesmith claims he didn't intend to mislead, he certainly did intend to lead whoever read that altered CIA email away from the exact wording of the CIA email, lest they conclude that Page had, in fact, been a CIA source. Obviously--and I'm giving Clinesmith every benefit of the doubt--Clinesmith understood that other agents and lawyers reading the CIA email might well conclude from the words used by the CIA that Page had, in fact, been what would normally be understood to be "a source." Coming from a lawyer dealing with investigators and lawyers, that's inexcusable and has to be considered to be dishonesty. He was intentionally misleading the others regarding the actual content of an official document from another agency. If Clinesmith had honestly feared that there might be a possibility of misunderstanding what the CIA intended to say, the only remedy would be to clear that up through further communication--not by altering a CIA document.
Here is the NYT account, and it hints at the explanation I've just provided. Nevertheless, even the NYT seems to recognize that, in fact, that explanation is not really exculpatory:
Mr. Clinesmith incorrectly said that Mr. Page was “never a source” and sent the C.I.A.’s information to the supervisor. He altered the original email to say that Mr. Page had not been a source — a material change to a document used in a federal investigation.
The agent relied on the altered email to submit the application seeking further court permission to wiretap Mr. Page, the inspector general wrote. By changing the email and then forwarding it, Mr. Clinesmith misrepresented the original content of the document, which prosecutors said was a crime.
Mr. Clinesmith’s argued that he did not change the document in an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.’s mistake. His lawyers argued that he had made the change in good faith because he did not think that Mr. Page had been an actual source for the C.I.A.
Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyers also argued that their client did not try to hide the C.I.A. email from other law enforcement officials as they sought the final renewal of the Page wiretap. Mr. Clinesmith had provided the unchanged C.I.A. email to Crossfire Hurricane agents and the Justice Department lawyer drafting the original wiretap application.
Let's start from the end. Clinesmith, says the NYT, provided the unchanged CIA email to lawyers and agents when the original FISA application was being drafted. But time changes circumstances. The agents and lawyers drafting the original application back in October, 2016, apparently omitted mention of Page having been a CIA source. At that point in time, Trump was a candidate who was expected to lose the election. The FBI was trying to help him lose. When, in June of 2017, the SSA--probably not a Russia Hoax insider--asked for confirmation regarding Page's relationship with the CIA (probably for purposes of his Woods file), Clinesmith provided the SSA with the doctored--the altered--email. Trump had been president for 6 months at that point, and the Russia Hoax conspirators were now attempting a lawfare coup against him. If Clinesmith had sent the SSA the unaltered email, the SSA might have insisted on including that information in the final renewal application, and that might have led to the FISA judge rejecting the application. That's how I read the final paragraph. That's an intentional submission of a false statement in my book.
Then, looking at the penultimate paragraph, we read that Clinesmith didn't think that Page had been an "actual" source for the CIA. What's an "actual" source? When investigators and lawyers speak of a "source" in a general conversation they may be referring to a number of different types of sources: an OA, an IA, a CW. In a formal filing with a court, they're more likely to include a characterization of the source depending on the source's use: Is the source an undercover penetration source, is the source merely relaying tidbits of information he/she may pick up second hand, etc. Those are all sources if the agency involved regards them as such. To alter an official document without permission in order to alter that perception is a deliberate misrepresentation. Period.
As it stands, Durham can't proceed with a guilty plea unless Clinesmith backs off from the claim that he didn't intend to mislead. As Shipwreckedcrew concludes:
This may be why there was no hearing yesterday, and why no Plea Agreement outlining the facts admitted to by Clinesmith has not been filed. If this is not resolved in a manner that satisfies a federal judge, Durham may have no choice but to seek an indictment of Clinesmith from a federal jury — and there are more serious charges he could bring.
IMO, Clinesmith will regret that. And he won't thank his lawyer for this delay, because Durham will not be inclined to cut him any slack.
UPDATE: John Solomon spoke about this with Kevin Brock, a former FBI Ass't Director who helped put a lot of the FBI's intelligence procedures in place. I like having him on my side. When Solomon asked Brock about Clinesmith's attempt to minimize what he had done Brock scoffed and, like me, pointed out that the FBI had previously omitted to tell the FISC about Page's relationship with the CIA. Here's Brock explaining the significance of that omission, which could be the basis for additional charges involving more than just Clinesmith:
A lawyer for Clinesmith on Friday offered an apology for his client's action ahead of his guilty plea, but suggested Clinesmith didn't intend to mislead the court when he altered the CIA document.
Brock dismissed that argument.
"The fact that the bureau was advised even before the first application that Carter Page was a source of the CIA and chose not to include it for the first three applications undercuts that argument," the retired FBI executive said. "It stretches credulity that Clinesmith would claim he believed he was providing accurate information. They already knew it was inaccurate."
Brock is referring to the August 17, 2016, memorandum from the CIA. However, as we've seen, the FBI was aware that Carter Page was a CIA source going all the way back to their first contact with him in 2009.