The greatest political scandal in American history is going to be swept under the rug. That is the moral I extract from the story that former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to altering a key document supporting one of the government’s FISA renewal applications on the warrant taken out on Carter Page, who must be the cleanest man in the United States.
Among the most informative stories on yesterday’s sentencing hearing are Josh Gerstein’s “Ex-FBI lawyer spared prison for altering Trump-Russia probe email” (Politico) and Jerry Dunleavy’s “Ex-FBI lawyer gets probation for Carter Page FISA email deception in Durham investigation” (Washington Examiner). Coincidentally, the sentencing judge was James Boasberg.
Coincidentally, Judge Boasberg has doubled as a member of FISA court since 2014 and served as its presiding judge since January 1, 2020. Perfect! I take it that it is time to tear down the whole rotten system beginning with the FBI itself and moving on to FISA and the FISA court.
The editors of the Wall Street Journal take up the Boasberg factor in “A pass for Kevin Clinesmith.” This must be Kim Strassel speaking on behalf of the editors:
How can the American people take the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seriously when it doesn’t do so itself? That’s our view of Friday’s sentencing of former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to falsifying evidence submitted to the court for a warrant to spy on onetime Trump foreign-policy adviser Carter Page.
Federal Judge James Boasberg spared Mr. Clinesmith prison in favor of 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service. The judge said the evidence persuaded him that “Mr. Clinesmith likely believed that what he said about Mr. Page was true.”
In their brief, prosecutors made clear how unlikely this is. The evidence of Mr. Clinesmith’s animus toward Donald Trump is considerable. As for being an honest mistake, remember that Mr. Clinesmith changed an email confirming Mr. Page had been a CIA source to one that said the exact opposite, explicitly adding the words “not a source” before he forwarded it.
In their brief arguing for prison time, prosecutors contended that Mr. Clinesmith’s behavior “struck at the very core” of the candor the FISA court “fundamentally relies on” and “allowed the FBI to conduct surveillance on a U.S. citizen based on a FISA application that the Department of Justice later acknowledged lacked probable cause.” Prison time for Mr. Clinesmith, they said, was also necessary to “deter others from committing similar crimes.”
Friday’s sentencing will fuel cynicism about two-tiered justice. While George Papadopoulos served time in prison for making false statements to the FBI, and a federal judge refused to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn after the Justice Department said they had no basis, a top law enforcement official who abused his police powers while operating in secrecy escapes with probation.
Judge Boasberg should be especially outraged by Mr. Clinesmith’s behavior because in 2020 he became the FISA court’s presiding judge. With his lenient sentencing, Judge Boasberg has sent a message that FBI agents who deceive the court can get off with a slap on the wrist when they are caught.
Last night Jerry Dunleavy collected disaffected comments from Devin Nunes and others in “Devin Nunes rips ‘two-tiered system’ after ex-FBI lawyer dodges prison time for Carter Page email deception.” They speak for me.
PAUL ADDS: Judge Boasberg was appointed to the bench by Barack Obama whose interests Clinesmith was promoting through his criminality.