December 8, 2019

USA: FBI Lawyer Under Criminal Investigation For Falsifying A Document Related To Spying On Trump Expressed Hatred For Trump, Gloated He Initiated The Destruction Of The Republic In Messages.

CNN Politics
written by Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez, CNN
November 22, 2019

Washington (CNN)A former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, several people briefed on the matter told CNN.

Yet the situation did not sway an independent Justice Department watchdog from finding the surveillance was valid, sources said.

Still, the possibility of a substantive change to an investigative document is likely to fuel accusations from President Donald Trump and his allies that the FBI committed wrongdoing in its investigation of connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign.

The findings are expected to be part of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's review of the FBI's effort to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Horowitz will release the report next month.

Horowitz turned over evidence on the allegedly altered document to John Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed early this year by Attorney General William Barr to conduct a broad investigation of intelligence gathered for the Russia probe by the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI. The altered document is also at least one focus of Durham's criminal probe.

It's unknown how significant a role the altered document played in the FBI's investigation of Page. The alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document's meaning and came up during a part of Horowitz's FISA review where details were classified, according to the sources. It did not change Horowitz's finding that the FISA application had a legal basis, The Washington Post first reported.

Some witnesses who have been interviewed in Horowitz's investigation have said they expect the inspector general to find mistakes in the FBI's handling of the FISA process, but that those mistakes do not undermine the premise for the FBI's investigation.

American intelligence agencies and the Justice Department have not swayed from their finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking the Democrats and spreading pro-Trump propaganda online. And even former top Trump campaign officials have corroborated special counsel Robert Mueller's finding that the Trump campaign planned some of its strategy around the Russian hacks, and had multiple contacts with Kremlin-linked individuals in 2016.

Horowitz's investigators conducted more than 100 witness interviews in their review. During one of interviews this year, they confronted the witness about the document. The witness admitted to the change, the sources said.

The lawyer, who was a line attorney, is no longer working at the bureau, said a person familiar with the matter. A line attorney is a lower level lawyer within the FBI.

No charges that could reflect the situation have been filed publicly in court.
The Justice Department and inspector general's office declined to comment.

Horowitz report

Horowitz is expected to release his report on December 9 and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee two days later.

The internal, independent investigator so far, over several reports, has criticized top members of the FBI for their actions leading up to and during the Russia investigation. Those IG reports have looked at situations including former FBI Director James Comey's handling of his personal memos about meetings with the President and former official Peter Strzok's anti-Trump text messages.

A finding of alleged wrongdoing from Horowitz could further fuel Republican criticism and conspiracies about previous investigators' targeting of Trump associates. It could also provide them a political boost at a moment where Democrats' impeachment investigation into Trump's political quid pro quo with Ukraine has battered the President.

The report is said to cover the FBI's approach to foreign surveillance during the Russia investigation, including of warrants used to wiretap Page, who had advised the Trump campaign in 2016. Witnesses are currently reviewing Horowitz's findings.

Horowitz has shared information from his review with Durham, CNN previously reported.

The Justice Department has been tight-lipped on outlining exactly what Durham has been looking at. But the attorney general himself said soon after appointing him that he was concerned officials acted inappropriately as they oversaw the counterintelligence probe of the 2016 Trump campaign.

Barr's embrace of these theories aligns with Trump's chief grievance that he was the victim of a "deep state" spy operation that has clouded his presidency.

The New York Times, CNN and other outlets have reported that Durham's investigation had become a criminal investigation.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the official is a lawyer who is no longer with the FBI. It has also been updated with information about the impact of the matter under investigation.
The Washington Examiner
written by by Daniel Chaitin and Jerry Dunleavy
November 22, 2019

The FBI lawyer under criminal investigation for allegedly falsifying a document related to the surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser expressed negative opinions of President Trump in messages to colleagues.

Kevin Clinesmith, who was part of special counsel Robert Mueller's team, has been identified as the attorney who could face a criminal charge as part of U.S. Attorney John Durham's expansive criminal inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation, according to the New York Times.

As part of the Justice Department watchdog's now-completed investigation into alleged surveillance abuses, Clinesmith was found to have altered an email that was used by officials as they prepared an application renewal to present before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a warrant to electronically surveil Carter Page, a onetime foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign.

Clinesmith was an attorney with the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch and worked under FBI General Counsel James Baker and Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson. He had worked on the Clinton email investigation as well as the Trump-Russia probe. Clinesmith was present in the FBI's meeting with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in February 2017 in Chicago, Papadopoulos told lawmakers in 2018. An Australian diplomat's tip about Papadopoulos claiming the Russians had damaging information about Hillary Clinton effectively prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, called Crossfire Hurricane, in July 2016.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's investigators found Clinesmith falsely asserted he had documentation to back up a claim while in talks with the Justice Department about the factual basis for a FISA warrant application renewal. He then took an email from an official from another agency that contained multiple factual assertions, added material of his own, and gave it to a fellow FBI official who was preparing an affidavit for the Page case. Clinesmith has been described in many media reports as a “low-level attorney,” but Horowitz said he “was the primary FBI attorney assigned to [the Trump-Russia] investigation in early 2017.”

Eagerly anticipated by Trump's allies, Howoritz's report is expected to be released to the public on Dec. 9, the inspector general announced this week. They believe it will reveal an effort to undermine Trump's 2016 campaign in which the FBI misled the FISA court in its reliance on an unverified dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, whose research about Trump and his associates was partially funded by Clinton's 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm and Fusion GPS.

The Times, however, reported that the inspector general is expected to criticize top FBI officials but absolve them of abusing their power out of bias against Trump. Democrats, as well as current and former FBI officials, have additionally dismissed allegations of wrongdoing and have raised concerns that information about U.S. intelligence-gathering could be leveraged to discredit Mueller.

Horowitz previously identified Clinesmith as one of the FBI officials who conveyed a bias against Trump in instant messages. Clinesmith was kicked out of Mueller's Russia investigation team in February 2018. Two other FBI officials who were forced out of Mueller's team for similar anti-Trump messages were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom have also left the bureau.

In a lengthy instant message exchange between Clinesmith and another FBI employee on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Trump’s presidential victory, he lamented Trump’s win and worried about the role he played in the investigation into Trump and his campaign.

“My god damned name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff,” Clinesmith said, adding, “So, who knows if that breaks to him what he is going to do?”

A couple weeks later, on Nov. 22, 2016, he said, “Hell no,” when asked by another FBI attorney if he was “rethink[ing] [his] commitment to the Trump administration.”

“Viva le resistance,” Clinesmith added.

In a scathing July 2018 inspector general report on the FBI's Clinton emails investigation, Clinesmith was criticized at least 56 times, listed as "FBI Attorney 2." Clinesmith defended himself, claiming his messages only reflected his personal views. He asserted his opinions did not affect his work.

During a hearing that June with Horowitz, North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows named Clinesmith as being one of two unnamed lawyers criticized in the inspector general report.

The initial FISA application and three renewals targeting Page required the approval of top members of the FBI, the DOJ, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but they were also handled by lower-level officials. The initial warrant application was approved in October 2016, and the final renewal came in June 2017.

Under suspicion of being a Russian agent, Page became a subject of interest in the FBI's counterintelligence investigation, which was later wrapped into Mueller's investigation. Page was never charged with a crime as part of Mueller's investigation, which failed to establish criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and denied being an agent for Russia.

Last summer, the DOJ took the unprecedented step of releasing more than 400 redacted pages of top-secret documents on the FISA warrant obtained to wiretap Page after Trump declassified their existence.

“We found instant messages in which FBI Attorney 2 discussed political issues, including three instant message exchanges that raised concerns of potential bias,” Horowitz wrote last year.

The first exchange highlighted by Horowitz occurred on Oct. 28, 2016, just after FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing the reopening of the Clinton email investigation. Clinesmith messaged a total of four FBI employees expressing his frustration, telling two of them, “I mean, I never really liked the Republic anyway.”

“As I have initiated the destruction of the republic ... Would you be so kind as to have a coffee with me this afternoon?” Clinesmith asked a third FBI employee.

And Clinesmith told a fourth FBI employee, “I’m clinging to small pockets of happiness in the dark time of the Republic’s destruction.”

In his attempt to explain these texts to Horowitz in 2018, Clinesmith said he was expressing his annoyance with what he saw as the FBI treating the Clinton email investigation more harshly than the Trump-Russia investigation. He continued to say he didn’t let it impact his work.

“It’s like, in terms of, of, you know, what’s not in here too is like, you know, we, at that point we had investigation, the Russia investigation was ongoing as well. And that information was obviously kept close hold and was not released until March,” Clinesmith said. “So, you know, it, it was just kind of frustration that we weren’t handling both of them the same way with, with that level I guess.”

The second exchange detailed by the inspector general occurred on Nov. 9, 2016, in which he and another FBI official were “devastated” about Trump’s victory over Clinton the day prior, and Clinesmith said he thought the Comey letter to Congress may have helped Trump win, claiming, “We broke the momentum.”

“I am so stressed about what I could have done differently,” Clinesmith said, later adding, “It’s just hard not to feel like the FBI caused some of this. It was razor-thin in some states.”

Clinesmith also trashed Trump and the Republican Party.

“The crazies won finally. This is the Tea Party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost, they have to deal with an incumbent in 4 years,” he said. “We have to fight this again. Also, Pence is stupid.”

Clinesmith told Horowitz in 2018, “I wasn’t anywhere near the, the room deciding on these factors. ... It was just kind of like a discussion on how I could have either moved the process along more quickly or more efficiently at a, at a more, at an earlier time, or whatnot.”

The former FBI lawyer also attempted to explain away his third exchange on Nov. 22, 2016, in which he’d referenced “the Resistance.”

“It’s just the, the lines bled through here just in terms of, of my personal, political view in terms of, of what particular preference I have,” Clinesmith told Horowitz. “But, but that doesn’t have any, any leaning on the way that I, I maintain myself as a professional in the FBI.”
Fox News
written by Gregg Re
November 22, 2019

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has found evidence that an FBI lawyer manipulated a key investigative document related to the FBI's secretive surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser -- enough to change the substantive meaning of the document, according to multiple reports.

The show-stopping development comes as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News that Horowitz's comprehensive report on allegations of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant abuse against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page will be released on Dec. 9. "That's locked," Graham said.

The new evidence concerning the altered document, which pertained to the FBI's FISA court warrant application to surveil Page, is expected to be outlined in Horowitz's upcoming report. CNN first reported the news, which was largely confirmed by The Washington Post.

But the Post, hours after publishing its story, conspicuously removed the portion of its reporting that the FBI employee involved worked "beneath" Peter Strzok, the FBI's since-fired head of counterintelligence. The Post did not offer an explanation for the change, which occurred shortly after midnight. Earlier this week, the DOJ highlighted a slew of anti-Trump text messages sent by Strzok when he was leading the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the probe into the Trump campaign.

"The person under scrutiny has not been identified but is not a high-ranking official — they worked beneath former deputy assistant director Peter Strzok, according to people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss material that has not yet been made public," The Post wrote in its now-deleted paragraph.

The paper eventually added a correction to the bottom of its piece, reading, "Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that the FBI employee being investigated for altering a document worked underneath former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. The employee was a low-level lawyer in the Office of General Counsel and did not report to the deputy assistant director."

Nevertheless, Horowitz reportedly found that the FBI employee was involved enough in the FISA process to falsely state that he had "documentation to back up a claim he had made in discussions with the Justice Department about the factual basis" for the FISA warrant application, the Post reported. Then, the FBI employee allegedly "altered an email" to substantiate his inaccurate version of events. The employee has since been forced out of the bureau.

In its initial 2016 FISA warrant application, the FBI flatly called Page "an agent of a foreign power."

Sources told Fox News last month that U.S. Attorney John Durham's separate, ongoing probe into potential FBI and Justice Department misconduct in the run-up to the 2016 election through the spring of 2017 has transitioned into a full-fledged criminal investigation -- and that Horowitz's report will shed light on why Durham's probe has become a criminal inquiry.

Durham has reportedly taken up Horowitz's findings concerning the falsified FISA document, meaning the ex-FBI lawyer who made the changes is now under criminal investigation. The Post indicated, however, that the document was not central to the legality of the FISA warrant obtained against Page.

Republicans have long argued that the FBI's alleged FISA abuses, which came as the bureau aggressively pursued ultimately unsubstantiated claims of criminal links between the Trump team and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, were politically motivated. In recent months, a series of unearthed documents has strengthened those claims.

Just nine days before the FBI applied for its first FISA warrant to surveil Page, bureau officials were battling with a senior Justice Department official who had "continued concerns" about the "possible bias" of a source pivotal to the application, according to internal text messages previously obtained by Fox News.

The 2016 messages, sent between Lisa Page and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, also revealed that bureau brass circulated at least two anti-Trump blog articles, including a Lawfare blog post sent shortly after Election Day that called Trump possibly "among the major threats to the security of the country."

Fox News is told the texts were connected to the ultimately successful Page application, which relied in part on information from British ex-spy Christopher Steele – whose anti-Trump views are now well-documented – and cited Page’s suspected Russia ties. In its warrant application, the FBI inaccurately assured the FISA court on numerous occasions that media sources independently corroborated Steele's claims, and did not clearly state that Steele worked for a firm hired by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Much of the Steele dossier has been proved discredited or unsubstantiated, including the dossier's claims that the Trump campaign was paying hackers in the United States out of a non-existent Russian consulate in Miami, or that ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to conspire with Russians. Special Counsel Robert Mueller also was unable to substantiate the dossier's claims that Carter Page had received a large payment relating to the sale of a share of Rosneft, a Russian oil giant, or that a lurid blackmail tape involving the president existed.

Despite being accused by the FBI of being a Russian agent in the FISA application, and being secretly surveilled for more than a year, Page has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He has since sued numerous actors -- including the DNC -- for defamation related to claims that he worked with Russia.

"OI [Office of Intelligence] now has a robust explanation re any possible bias of the chs [confidential human source] in the package," Lisa Page wrote to McCabe on Oct. 12, 2016. "Don't know what the holdup is now, other than Stu's continued concerns."

It's unclear whether the confidential source in question was Steele or another individual. "Stu" was an apparent reference to Stuart Evans, then the DOJ's National Security Division deputy assistant attorney general. In one previously unearthed and since-unredacted text message, Strzok texted Page that he was "Currently fighting with Stu for this FISA" in late 2016.

Page is not the only Trump official to allege misconduct by the FBI. Last month, an explosive court filing from Michael Flynn’s legal team alleged that FBI agents manipulated official records of the former national security adviser’s 2017 interview that led to him being charged with lying to investigators. Flynn's attorneys demanded the FBI search its internal "Sentinel" system to find more evidence of allegedly doctored files.

Newly released text messages involving text messages between Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page revealed that Page -- who was not present for the Flynn interview -- had apparently made "edits" to the so-called "302" witness report in the case, which was key to Flynn's prosecution on a false statements charge. Page told Strzok on February 10, 2017 that she “gave my edits to Bill to put on your desk.”

Horowitz told congressional lawmakers in an October letter that his investigation and ensuing report were nearing their conclusion.

Fox Business published Oct 16, 2018: Fusion GPS co-founder pleads Fifth on the FAKE anti-Trump dossier. FOX News contributor Jason Chaffetz discusses how Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

WSJ 8/15/19: The Justice Department is investigating how a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, came to exert so much influence over the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s erroneous Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Let’s hope the department is also investigating an even more influential man who had even less business manipulating the government: Glenn Simpson, the head of opposition-research firm Fusion GPS.

That’s a pressing question in light of new documents from high-ranking Justice official Bruce Ohr, obtained recently by Judicial Watch. The papers include, among other things, a dozen official FBI interviews (known as 302s) of Mr. Ohr that date from just after the 2016 election through May 2017. The documents suggest Mr. Simpson was the real puppet master of the collusion drama.

More eye-popping in the 302s is the ease with which Mr. Simpson landed meetings with powerful officials, for no apparent purpose other than to peddle unverified accusations against the Trump team. This isn’t a former intelligence officer or government official, or even someone with specialized knowledge of Russia. Mr. Simpson is a private citizen—and one who Mr. Ohr and the FBI knew was providing information to Hillary Clinton’s team (as Mr. Ohr acknowledges in his initial 302). Yet when Mr. Simpson called, officials across Washington hopped to, swallowing the claims that would become the basis of a false hysteria.

Fox News published August 8, 2019: Justice Department releases DOJ Official Bruce Ohr's interview records. Reaction from former DOJ prosecutor Jim Trusty and former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo.

Fox News published Oct 19, 2018: Nellie Ohr claims spousal privilege in deposition. Former Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr is married to DOJ official Bruce Ohr and that's apparently a big factor in which questions she's answering in her closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill; reaction and analysis from John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush.

In a January 30, 2016 email exchange sent entirely over unsecure devices, top former FBI officials including General Counsel Jim Baker, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Strzok, Page, unidentified individuals from the DOJ’s National Security Division and NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell, discuss a draft document with the subject line: “Revised IC Safe Harbor Letter (from [redacted] using [redacted] iPad).”

In a February 5, 2016, email Strzok indicates to Page that at least two, and possibly more, top FBI officials had not been properly “read-in” to top secret, compartmented programs. Those included McCabe and Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Bill Preistap. It is indicated Page needs some read-ins as well.

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