Ex-FBI lawyer agrees to one-year bar sanction after conviction

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REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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  • Clinesmith pleaded guilty in 2020 to altering email concerning then-Trump aide Carter Page
  • Attorney ethics panel in Washington, D.C. set to hear proposed one-year bar suspension on July 19

(Reuters) - Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith has agreed to a one-year suspension of his attorney license in Washington, D.C., following his conviction in August 2020 on a felony false-statement charge arising from the internal review of the special counsel's Russia investigation, new bar records show.

Clinesmith and his lawyers at Lathrop GPM signed a negotiated discipline with the District of Columbia office of disciplinary counsel on June 11 that set out the proposed suspension.

A hearing committee of the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility is expected to take up the proposal at a public hearing on July 19.

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D.C. bar disciplinary counsel Hamilton Fox III declined to comment Monday on the ethics case against Clinesmith, an assistant general counsel at the FBI focusing on national security and cyber law from 2015 to 2019.

Clinesmith's lawyers at Lathrop GPM, D.C.-based partners Eric Yaffe and Frank Sciremammano, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The hearing committee can approve or reject a negotiated bar sanction.

If the panel approves the penalty, Clinesmith would lose the ability to practice law until August 2021, one year after he reported his guilty plea to the D.C. disciplinary counsel's office. Clinesmith's bar license is suspended on an interim basis in Michigan, where he has an attorney license.

The director of the Michigan attorney discipline board did respond to a request for comment Monday.

Clinesmith admitted in Washington, D.C. federal court in August 2020 that he altered an email that was included in information presented in 2017 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court concerning whether or not then-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had been a "source" for the CIA. Clinesmith said he believed he was conveying accurate information to the court and had no intent to deceive it.

The disciplinary counsel's office said it "does not believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove moral turpitude on the facts." The office pointed to other attorney ethics cases where a lawyer received a one-year bar suspension for the submission of a falsified document to a U.S. agency.

The office also cited Clinesmith's otherwise decade of "distinguished public service" and said he was not driven "by any personal financial, economic or commercial motive." His conduct, the office said, "involves only a single incident, not a pattern of misconduct." Clinesmith met with the disciplinary office and cooperated with the ethics investigation.

As a would-be aggravating factor, bar enforcers said Clinesmith's "misconduct has been used to discredit what appeared otherwise to have been a legitimate and highly important investigation" of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Clinesmith was sentenced in January to one year of probation and 400 hours of community service.

The case is In the Matter of Kevin Clinesmith, Disciplinary Docket No. 2019-D305.

For District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel: Hamilton Fox III and William Ross

For Clinesmith: Eric Yaffe and Frank Sciremammano of Lathrop GPM

Read more:

No prison sentence for ex-FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty in Russia probe fallout

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

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