Kevin Clinesmith is a former FBI lawyer expected to be accused of altering an email that was used to justify a court’s wiretap approval into Carter Page, a former advisor for Donald Trump. He’s also the author of anti-Trump and anti-Mike Pence texts that resulted in his leaving the Russia investigation. You can read those texts throughout this article. One of the more memorable ones declared, “Viva le resistance.”
The New York Times reported on November 22, 2019 that investigators for the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, “uncovered errors and omissions in documents” relating to the Page wiretap, and Horowitz has referred his investigative findings against Clinesmith for possible criminal charges. The Horowitz report into the Russia investigation’s beginnings has not yet been released, however.
Clinesmith, who resigned about two months ago, exited the Russia investigation in 2018 after it emerged that he had written text messages showing dislike of Trump, The Times reported. However, the newspaper added that some top FBI officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, were not accused of anti-Trump bias in the new report. The Times reported that Clinesmith is accused of adding information to an email in a way that made it appear the information came from its author.
It’s not the first time that Clinesmith’s name has surfaced in connection with possible anti-Trump bias. In 2018, GOP Congressman Mark Meadows publicly accused Clinesmith of possibly being an FBI lawyer described in the inspector general’s earlier report into the Clinton email investigation as writing anti-Trump messages, including one that declared “viva le resistance.” The Times confirmed on November 22, 2019, that Clinesmith wrote those texts, saying that Horowitz’s 2018 report “identified him as “F.B.I. Attorney 2.”
You can read the IG’s report in full here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Clinesmith Is Accused of Writing That He Was Devastated by Trump’s Victory & Describing Mike Pence as ‘Stupid’
The messages in the case of “FBI Attorney 2” (now identified as Clinesmith) were described as instant messages. He wasn’t the only one who expressed anti Trump animus. “We found the conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI,” the earlier IG report stated of the five FBI employees. Only two, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, were named in the report. The report describes FBI Attorney 2 as a “more junior attorney” than another lawyer on the Clinton email investigation.
“That these employees used an FBI system or device to express political views about individuals affected by ongoing investigations for which they were responsible was particularly disappointing,” the report said.
The IG found that “most of these exchanges appeared to be jokes or attempts at humor, often involving Trump.” FBI Attorney 2 said he “regretted his use of instant messaging in this matter,” said he didn’t do it routinely and that it was “commentary” on recent political events and not connect to his decisions in the investigations. He repeatedly denied to IG investigators that his political beliefs had any bearing on his professional work.
One exchange took place November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election, in which Attorney 2 (Clinesmith) wrote to another employee, including the following:
Attorney 2: “I am numb.”
Other employee not involved in midyear investigation: “I can’t stop crying.”
Attorney 2: “That makes me even more sad.”
Employee “Like, what happened? You promised me this wouldn’t happen. YOU PROMISED…”
Attorney 2: “I am so stressed about what I could have done differently.”
Employee: “Don’t stress. None of that mattered. The FBI’s influence.”
Attorney 2: “I don’t know. We broke the momentum.”
Employee: “That is not so….”
Attorney 2: “I’m just devastated. I can’t wait until I can leave today and just shut off the world for the next four days…I just can’t imagine the systematic disassembly of the progress we made over the last 8 years. ACA is gone. Who knows if the rhetoric about deporting people, walls and crap is true. I honestly feel like there is going to be a lot more gun issues too, 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. We have to fight this again. Also Pence is stupid.”
Attorney 2: “And it’s just hard not to feel like the FBI caused some of this. It was razor thin in some states. Plus my god damned name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff. So who knows if that breaks to him, what he is going to do.”
He told the IG that “we tend to exaggerate some statements back and forth to one another” of his exchanges with the unnamed employee.
In a third exchange on November 22, 2016, he sent an instant message to FBI Attorney 1 commenting on the amount of money the subject of an FBI investigation had been paid while working on the Trump campaign. FBI attorney 1 responded, “Is it making you rethink your commitment to the Trump administration?” FBI attorney 2 replied, “Hell, no,” and then added “Viva le resistance.” They then talked about federal pension issues.
He later explained to the IG: “It’s just the lines bled through here just in terms of, of my personal, political views in terms of, or what particular preference I have. But, but that doesn’t have any leaning on the way that I, I maintain myself as a professional in the FBI.”
Asked if Viva le resistance signaled he was going to fight back against President Trump, he responded “That’s not what I was doing… I just, again, like that, that’s just like the entire, it’s just my political view in terms of, of my preference. It wasn’t something along the lines of, you know, we’re taking certain actions in order to, you know, combat that or, or do anything like that.”
He and attorney 1 were assigned to the Russia investigation at that time. She said she thought it was a “joke obviously.”
2. Clinesmith Described Himself as a ‘News Junkie on Government’ Who Made ‘Water Cooler Type Talk’
The IG report quotes Clinesmith’s defense, again calling him FBI Attorney 2: “I, like most people, have particular views on, on politics. I’m a bit of a news junkie when it comes to government. It’s one of the main reasons I, I joined the federal workforce is because I’ve always found it so fascinating and interesting. But when it came to doing my work, I never injected this, this type of color commentary or this type of water cooler type talk into that. I, I maintained impartiality and just tried to work through the issues individually as they came through,” FBI Attorney 2 told the IG.
After former FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress about reopening the Clinton investigation right before the election, Clinesmith sent four similar messages to different employees, including:
“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?”
“I’m clinging to small pockets of happiness in the dark time of the Republic’s destruction.”
He explained the messages “as reflecting his surprise and frustration that the FBI ‘was essentially walking into a landmine in terms of injecting itself (into the election) at that late in the process,'” said the report.
He explained “…the Russia investigation was ongoing as well. And that information was obviously kept close hold and was not released until March. 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.”
He described the “destruction” language as “hyperbolic” and “off-the-cuff commentary to friends.”
What is Clinesmith’s background? He provided some details when he ran as a candidate for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission in the Washington D.C. area in 2012.
“I was born and raised in a small farming town in rural Michigan, and have degrees from Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan State University College of Law, and the Georgetown University Law Center,” he told the website New Columbia Heights.
“I came to the DC area in 2008 to work for the U.S. Department of Energy, where I have worked in various areas for almost five years. Previously, I worked in state government in Michigan, primarily in the Governor’s office and Attorney General’s office.”
According to the Michigan Bar Association lawyer’s directory, Kevin E. Clinesmith is still licensed to practice law in Michigan and has a Washington D.C. address. There is only one Kevin Clinesmith licensed to practice law in Washington D.C. The D.C. website says Kevin Clinesmith, the lawyer, uses the same email address as the man who ran for the advisory commission.
Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, released the identity of Clinesmith during a hearing on the Inspector General’s report into the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. According to The New York Post, Meadows did so over the objections of the FBI. The lawyer mentioned in the IG report, and now named by multiple media outlets as Clinesmith, worked on both the Clinton and Russian investigations but left the latter after the IG shared his instant messages with the special counsel.
“In a dramatic moment, Meadows then directly asked (Inspector General) Horowitz whether two anonymous FBI employees identified as making anti-Trump statements in the IG’s report were named Kevin Clinesmith and (the second person),” Fox News reported. However, the Inspector General refused to answer the question. Heavy previously left messages for Clinesmith via email and phone seeking comment to no avail.
The Congressman dropped the name of Kevin Clinesmith into the public record and domain, initially making it clear that he suspected Clinesmith was “FBI Attorney 2” as described in the IG’s report. The New York Times is now reporting that Clinesmith was the lawyer accused of sending the texts. The New York Post also reported that “Clinesmith is ‘FBI Attorney 2’ in the report.”
3. Clinesmith Is a Marathon Runner & Dragoncon Fan Who Worked for the FBI’s National Security & Cyber Law Branch
Clinesmith was an attorney assigned to the FBI’s “National Security and Cyber Law Branch and worked under FBI General Counsel James Baker and Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson,” Washington Examiner reported. It added that he was present when the FBI met with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in February 2017.
The New Columbia Heights website article further quoted Kevin Clinesmith as describing himself as “an avid college sports fan and marathon runner—in fact, if you see a tall guy with glasses running around the neighborhood in MSU gear, feel free to stop me and say hello or just yell ‘Go Green!'”
On Twitter, a friend tagged Kevin Clinesmith in a post with this photo, writing, “We should do a game night folks.” The date was October 17, 2016.
Posts from friends on Facebook shows that he’s very active in D.C., doing things like playing Bocce ball and attending Dragoncon 2012. Dragoncon is a science fiction and gaming convention. Online records show that Clinesmith has lived in Michigan, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
4. Clinesmith Loved the Diversity of His Virginia Neighborhood, Describing Himself as a ‘True Washingtonian’
Clinesmith told New Columbia Heights that he had lived in Arlington, Virginia since 2008. “I finally became a true Washingtonian and moved to Columbia Heights (Park Triangle Apartments, 1375 Kenyon St NW) in November 2011 and could not be happier with my neighborhood choice. Everything from our local farmer’s markets to our culture and diverse options in local businesses creates a small community feeling within our large metropolitan region and has made me feel incredibly welcome,” he told the site in an interview.
There is little on his public Facebook page. He appears to have a Twitter page but the tweets are privatized. Photos on Facebook indicate he was married, as friends posted multiple pictures showing his wedding. It’s not clear whether he is still married.
Numerous alumni newsletters for Michigan State College of Law list Kevin E. Clinesmith as graduating from the school in 2007. His name comes up as attending alumni events for Michigan State, and he’s been photographed wearing the college’s athletic gear.
5. Clinesmith Was Originally Assigned to Both the Clinton Email & Russia Investigations
FBI Attorney 2 “was assigned to the Midyear investigation, the Russia investigation, and the Special Counsel investigation. We found messages in which FBI Attorney 2 discussed political issues, including three instant message exchanges that raised concerns of potential bias,” the IG report says. The Midyear investigation is the Clinton email investigation.
Attorney 2 was assigned to the Clinton investigation early in 2015 and was not the lead FBI attorney assigned. He provided support as needed.
FBI Attorney 2 was also assigned to the investigation into Russian election interference and “was the primary FBI attorney assigned to that investigation beginning in early 2017,” the report says.
He was assigned to the Special Counsel investigation once it began. He returned to the FBI in late February 2018 “shortly after the OIG provided the Special Counsel with some of the instant messages,” said the IG report.