Outrage: FBI lawyer who lied to FISA Court to wiretap Carter Page gets a slap on the wrist and sympathy from federal judge handing down sentence
The message is out to the next rogue federal bureaucrats who contemplate committing crimes in the name of wiretapping (or otherwise abusing the rights of) opponents of the Deep State: don't worry! You won't be doing any jail time and may even get sympathy from the judge — in the unlikely event you ever get caught. Unleash the fearsome spying apparatus taxpayers provide against political opponents of Democrats.
That's the clear signal sent by FISA Court judge James Boasberg (an Obama appointee to the federal bench and a John Roberts appointee to the FISA Court, and reportedly a member of Skull & Bones while an undergraduate at Yale) with his sentence of Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who lied to the court in order to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page. Josh Gerstein reports in Politico:
The only person charged in the Justice Department's investigation into the origins of the probe of former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and its ties to Russia was spared prison time for altering an email used to support a surveillance application.
Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, 38, received the sentence of 12 months probation and 400 hours community service from U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg Friday during a video hearing.
Clinesmith admitted that in June 2017 he sent an altered email to an FBI agent that indicated a target of court-ordered FBI surveillance, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, was "not a source" for the Central Intelligence Agency. The statement, passed along as the FBI was applying for a third extension of surveillance of Page, made Page's actions seem more suspicious by downplaying his past cooperation with the CIA.
Lying to a court is a very serious crime, normally resulting in prison time. Courts cannot function if people are able to lie to them and get away with it. For a lawyer — an "officer of the court" — to lie is doubly serious. Yet Clinesmith will do not a day of prison time, and will instead do 400 hours of "community service" (my guess is that it will be indoors, and something he'd volunteer for anyway, perhaps dishing out food to the homeless).
Clinesmith claimed that his misrepresentation was an accident, even though he altered the record 180 degrees, and knew that Page was in fact a source who had worked for the FBI.
Judge Boasberg actually had the gall to ooze sympathy for Clinesmith. Charlie Savage in The New York Times:
[T]he judge, James E. Boasberg of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, said the destruction of Mr. Clinesmith's career — and being vilified in a "media hurricane" — had already provided significant punishment and sent a deterrent message.
"Anybody who has watched what Mr. Clinesmith has suffered is not someone who will readily act in that fashion," Judge Boasberg said. "Weighing all of these factors together — both in terms of the damages he caused and what he has suffered and the positives in his own life — I believe a probationary sentence is appropriate here and will therefore impose it."
What "media hurricane"? James Freeman writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Is Judge Boasberg joking when he suggests the convict has suffered from some kind of media circus? Readers wondering how often Clinesmith has been trailed by a pack of press photographers will note that the rare stories about him are generally illustrated with a years-old official photograph. In the months after his offenses were detailed by the Justice inspector general, there was an almost complete blackout of the story in major media outlets.
The Journal's Byron Tau offers additional reporting on the judge's decision to be lenient:
"Mr. Clinesmith has lost his job in government service — what has given his life much of its meaning," said Judge Boasberg.
The judge responsible for punishing an attorney who helped the FBI abuse its powers to target a political campaign and then a presidency with a collusion hoax that poisoned our politics for years is concerned about the criminal's personal search for meaning? Instead of community service, perhaps Judge Boasberg should have just ordered Clinesmith to live, laugh and love.
Judge James Boasberg (offical photo)
Ace, characteristically, is more trenchant (language warning):
This is the Deep State saying, "F--- you, we own this s---, you are our slaves, and there's not a f------ thing you can do about it."
Could they make it any clearer that Clinesmith was, in fact, doing exactly the job they asked of him and following his superiors' orders to the T?
Paul Sperry, writing in Real Clear Investigations, makes it clear that Clinesmith was not acting alone:
Several officials within his tightly compartmentalized chain-of-command — including former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, his counselor Lisa Page and counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok — learned of Page's role with the CIA before they first sought to wiretap him during the 2016 presidential campaign. The CIA had confirmed his role two months earlier in an August 2016 memo it sent to the FBI. And Page's status as a CIA contact had been documented in the FBI's own electronic files going back to 2009.
Yet they all withheld this critical information attesting to Page's loyalty from the spy court. (snip)
Former FBI officials say it's unlikely Clinesmith would have operated on his own without higher-ups knowing about his June 2017 misrepresentations about Page's prior work for the CIA.
They note that the criminal suppression of that exculpatory information occurred during a supercharged atmosphere at FBI headquarters. Just weeks earlier, President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, and Comey's deputy was secretly discussing desperate measures to strike back at the president, including covertly recording him in the Oval Office and removing him from power under the 25th Amendment. Keeping one of Trump's advisers under surveillance became a bureau priority.
The nation's premier law enforcement agency was spying on a president for political reasons and committing crimes in order to keep doing so.
Unless Clinesmith has already spilled his guts and implicated higher-ups like Comey, Strzok, and McCabe, this sentence is an absolute outrage, and the sympathy from the bench for a criminal who corrupted the basis of our political system is an invitation to more...and worse abuse.
John Durham: This is your last chance to save the political system from acceptance of partisan corruption of the law enforcement and judicial system. If higher-ups escape as Clinesmith did, then we are an openly corrupt polity.