D.C. court orders ex-FBI lawyer's license suspended for one year

the Federal Bureau Investigation seal at FBI headquarters in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
  • D.C. Court of Appeals approved starting suspension for Kevin Clinesmith in August 2020
  • Three-judge panel concluded "sanction is not unduly lenient"
  • Michigan ethics case is pending, and a two-year suspension was negotiated there

(Reuters) - A Washington, D.C., court on Thursday formally approved a one-year bar suspension for a former FBI lawyer who was convicted on a felony charge for altering a document during the agency's investigation of contacts between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty in August 2020 in Washington, D.C., federal court to making a false statement, had negotiated the one-year attorney license suspension with the D.C. bar's disciplinary counsel office. The deal said the suspension would start at the time of his plea. The one-year penalty has now expired.

A hearing committee of the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility earlier reviewed the negotiated settlement and recommended that the D.C. Court of Appeals, which oversees attorney conduct, approve it.

Judges Stephen Glickman, Joshua Deahl and Frank Nebeker of the D.C. Court of Appeals said in their order on Thursday they "agree the proposed sanction is not unduly lenient or inconsistent with dispositions imposed for comparable professional misconduct."

A lawyer for Clinesmith, Eric Yaffe of Lathrop GPM, did not respond immediately to a message on Thursday seeking comment. The head of the D.C. office of disciplinary counsel, Hamilton Fox III, also did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Clinesmith formerly was an assistant general counsel in the national security and cyber law branch of the FBI's office of general counsel from 2015 to 2019.

In the underlying criminal case, Clinesmith admitted he altered an email about the relationship between then-Trump adviser Carter Page and the CIA, inserting language showing Page to be an agency "subsource" but not a "source."

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who sentenced Clinesmith, concluded he had taken an "inappropriate shortcut" but had not otherwise engaged in deception.

The D.C. Court of Appeals suspension order resolves one of two ethics investigations involving Clinesmith.

Bar authorities in Michigan, where Clinesmith is also licensed, have proposed a two-year suspension in that state for the same false-statement conviction. Clinesmith is a 2007 law graduate from Michigan State University and held a law clerk position at the Michigan attorney general's office during law school.

Clinesmith's penalty in Michigan, if it is approved, would be in effect until August 2022.

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