Ex-FBI lawyer pleads guilty to doctoring email in Russia probe of Trump campaign

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court to falsifying a document as part of the bureau’s early-stage probe into whether President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with the Russian government.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Bureau of Investigation seal is seen at FBI headquarters in Washington, U.S. June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Clinesmith is the first person criminally charged in an investigation by John Durham, a federal prosecutor tapped to probe mistakes the FBI made when it sought a warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

During a virtual hearing in the U.S. District Court in Washington, Clinesmith admitted to doctoring a CIA email the FBI used in 2017 when it applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew its application for a secret wiretap to monitor Page.

“At the time I believed that the information I was providing in the email was accurate, but I am agreeing that the information I inserted into the email was not originally there, and I inserted that information,” Clinesmith said during the hearing.

In an August 2016 email, the CIA advised that Page, who is referenced in court documents as “Individual #1,” had been approved as an “operational contact” from 2008 to 2013.

When Clinesmith was later asked to confirm this information, he doctored a follow-up email from the CIA to make it appear as though Page was not an agency source, according to the charging documents.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz uncovered the doctored email and in December released a scathing report documenting 17 “basic and fundamental” errors and omissions in FBI surveillance warrant applications.

Trump’s Republican allies have repeatedly pointed to that report as evidence of a wider conspiracy by “deep state” government actors to undermine Trump. There was no indication of a broad conspiracy in the charging documents filed against Clinesmith.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg set a sentencing date for Dec. 10.

While Clinesmith could face a statutory maximum of five years in prison, the U.S. sentencing guidelines in his case call for a range of zero to six months in prison, Boasberg said.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell