A former "low-level" FBI lawyer identified as Kevin Clinesmith reportedly is now a target of a criminal investigation for modifying a document linked to surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, after the Justice Department inspector general (IG) reviewed the FBI’s handling of the Russian probe.
IG Michael Horowitz, due to hand his report to Congress on Dec. 9 and subsequently testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, uncovered an email from another official that in which Clinesmith had included comments without identifying them as his own. Horowitz handed the matter over to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a criminal probe at the behest of Attorney General William Barr into how the intelligence community handled the Russian investigation.
After news outlets like CNN initially said the nature of the document was unclear, as were the alterations made, the Washington Post reported that Horowitz found they didn’t change the validity of the agency’s FISA application for Page. Clinesmith was booted from the Mueller investigation after his anti-Trump social media posts surfaced.
The president and some GOP lawmakers have long contended that investigators abused their surveillance authority when petitioning the FISA court for a surveillance warrant on Page, who had been under surveillance since a 2014 probe into a Russian spy ring operating out of New York identified him as an unwitting player, and who became a figure of interest in the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation.
The FISA application to conduct surveillance on Page released by the Justice Department in July 2018 showed that the FBI firmly believed the former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor had been “the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” confirmed the intelligence community’s confidence in findings that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election, and seemed to dispel the notion that investigators misled the FISA court about the origins of the infamous Steele dossier when seeking permission to spy on Page.
Last year, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump fired in part for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, put Horowitz on the case, much to the president's chagrin. Trump tweeted at the time that Justice Department lawyers should lead an investigation, a wish granted to him after Barr assumed the reins at Justice earlier this year.