Kevin Clinesmith is a former FBI lawyer who intends to plead guilty to “falsifying a document” in the sprawling and contentious Russia investigation, according to The New York Times. Clinesmith worked on both the Clinton and Russian investigations but left the latter after the Inspector General accused him of writing anti-Trump instant messages, including one that declared “viva le resistance.”
The new Clinesmith allegations are part of John H. Durham’s probe into Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump, which Trump has decried as a witchhunt, a charge Mueller denies.
The New York Times previously reported that Clinesmith was suspected of altering an email that officials used when preparing to seek court approval for the renewal of a wiretap of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. At question was the fact that Page was actually providing information to the CIA, which the court was not told. The Times noted that the Inspector General later found that “Mr. Page’s association with the C.I.A. was not accurately conveyed to the Justice Department and ultimately kept from the judges who approved the surveillance warrants.”
According to the Times, when another FBI agent asked whether Page was a CIA source, “Clinesmith incorrectly said that Mr. Page was ‘never a source’ and sent the C.I.A.’s information to the supervisor. He altered the original email to say that Mr. Page had not been a source — a material change to a document used in a federal investigation.” The ties were downplayed in other FISA warrants but the accusations against Clinesmith relate to the third renewal, the newspaper reported.
Clinesmith’s name surfaced previously. In 2018, GOP Congressman Mark Meadows publicly accused Clinesmith of possibly being the FBI lawyer described in the inspector general’s report as writing anti-Trump messages, including one that declared “viva le resistance.” The Times is now reporting that Clinesmith is that lawyer, known as FBI lawyer 2 in the IG’s earlier report into the Clinton email investigation.
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 at the time over the objections of the FBI.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Clinesmith, a Michigan Native Who Previously Worked for the Department of Energy, Is Expected to Enter a Plea to a Single Felony Count
On August 14, the Times reported, via three sources, that Clinesmith, a “former F.B.I. lawyer,” intends “to plead guilty to falsifying a document as part of a deal with prosecutors conducting their own criminal inquiry of the Russia investigation.” According to The Times, Clinesmith “plans to admit that he altered an email from the C.I.A. that investigators relied on to seek renewed court permission in 2017 for a secret wiretap on the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who had at times provided information to the spy agency.” In fact, The Times reported, Page was an “an operational contact” for the CIA, which undercuts claims his behavior with Russians was suspicious and warranted surveillance.
According to The Times, which cited sources for its reporting on Clinesmith, prosecutors aren’t expected to tie Clinesmith’s actions to “any broader conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump.” The Times added that Clinesmith is expected to enter the plea to “a single felony count of making a false statement.”
The Times claimed that Clinesmith’s lawyers argue he had “benign,” motives and “other evidence indicated that he had not tried to hide the C.I.A. email from his colleagues.”
Page was a Trump adviser. Authorities received permission to wiretap him from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after expressing concern Russians were trying to recruit him, The Times reported.
Clinesmith provided some biographical information 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.
2. Clinesmith Is Accused of Being the Attorney Who Wrote ‘Viva Le Resistance,’ Was Devastated by Trump’s Victory & Described Mike Pence as ‘Stupid’
The Congressman dropped the name of Kevin Clinesmith into the public record and domain, initially making it clear that he suspects Clinesmith was “FBI Attorney 2” as described in the IG’s report. IG Michael Horowitz has said that the FBI was not going to release the employees’ names because they work in counterintelligence.
According to The New York Post, “Clinesmith is “’FBI Attorney 2′ in the report.” The Post noted that Meadows was trying to identify agents cited for “pro-Clinton, anti-Trump bias.”
In the hearing, Meadows disputed the reason for withholding the names. “They don’t work in counterintelligence,” Meadows said, according to Fox News.
The messages in the case of “FBI Attorney 2” (Clinesmith) were described as instant messages. “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 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.
“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, the lawyer 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.”
The second exchange took place November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election, in which Attorney 2 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.”
3. Clinesmith Is a Marathon Runner & Dragoncon Fan
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 is 36-years-old. He has lived in Michigan, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
4. Clinesmith Was Married & Loved the Diversity of His Virginia Neighborhood
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 the Attorney Who Was Removed From the Mueller Investigation
Meadows argues that Clinesmith is possibly the attorney who was also assigned to, and then removed from, the Russia probe. That’s now been confirmed to be true.
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.
Robert Mueller was investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Trump has described the investigation as a political witch hunt. However, the earlier IG report only dealt with the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and it found that, although FBI director James Comey acted out of protocol, there was not proof that the FBI made decisions due to political motivation.
You can read the IG’s report on the Clinton email investigation in full here.