FBI Lawyer Doctored Email to Cover Up Errors in FISA Applications on Carter Page

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies about the Inspector General's report on alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 11, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

A recently released Justice Department inspector general report revealed that then-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith doctored an email that proved that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was working with the U.S. government — not against it as a Russian agent — and may have triggered alarm bells for those approving intrusive surveillance warrants on him.

In his report, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed that Clinesmith, who has since left the FBI, altered an email from the CIA to the FBI that said that Page was a source for the CIA to falsely say that Page was “not” a source for the CIA.

The report showed that after the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil Page in October 2016, Page told news outlets in April and May 2017 that he had assisted the U.S. intelligence community in the past.

As a result, one of the Supervisory Special Agents (SSAs) supervising the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign asked for additional information about whether Page was correct.

The agent, identified as SSA 2 in the report, the affiant for two prior renewals of the FISA warrant applications on Page, asked a definitive answer before signing off on a third renewal.

His request led to Clinesmith communicating with a CIA liaison. The liaison wrote to Clinesmith that it was the liaison’s “recollection that Page had a relationship” with the CIA, and directed Clinesmith to review information the CIA gave to the FBI in August 2016 that stated that Page did, in fact, have a relationship with the CIA,

The report stated:

However, the OGC Attorney [Clinesmith] altered the liaison’s email by inserting the words “not a source” into it, thus making it appear that the liaison had said that Page was “not a source”; the OGC Attorney then sent the altered email to SSA 2. Relying upon this altered email, SSA 2 signed the third renewal application (that again failed to disclose Page’s past relationship with the other agency).

Horowitz’s report also showed that although the CIA told the FBI in August 2016 about Page’s relationship with the CIA, the FBI left that out in the initial FISA application, filed in September 2016.

The report said the first FISA application left out that Page had been approved as an “operational contact” for the CIA from 2008 to 2013 and that he had had “provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers.”

That information “overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application,” according to Horowitz’s report. The FISA warrant application on Page also left out that the CIA had given Page a “positive assessment,” the report said.

The revelation that Clinesmith doctored an email to cover up Page’s relationship with the CIA sparked fury from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during a hearing on the report on Wednesday.

“This is the lawyer supervising the process — the guy that altered the CIA email, because he didn’t want the court to know that Carter Page actually was a [CIA] source,” Graham began.

“Why does that matter? Because if the court had known then there’s a lawful reason for Mr. Page to be talking to the Russian guy. He wasn’t working against his country — he was working with his country, which undercuts the idea he’s a foreign agent. That’s why Clinesmith lied — because he didn’t want to stop this investigation,” he said.

Graham also read a text message Clinesmith sent to someone else at the FBI after the election: “I’m so stressed about what I could have done differently.”

Graham read another text message Clinesmith sent the day after the election: “I’m just devastated. I can’t wait until I can leave today and just shut off the world for the next four days.”

Graham quipped, “I’m sure a lot of people felt that way after Trump got elected. Maybe you still feel that way. But you shouldn’t be in charge of supervising anything about Donald Trump if you feel that way.”

He read additional text messages: “I just can’t imagine the systematic disassembly of the progress we’ve made over the past eight years … The crazies won finally.”

Graham expressed disbelief, “This is the lawyer that they put in charge of supervising the warrant process!”

He also read additional text messages that said, “This is the Tea Party on steroids,” and, “Pence is stupid.”

According to a previous report by Horowitz on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, he had found that Clinesmith also texted, “Viva le resistance” in the weeks after Trump’s win.

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