In June 2017, the New York production of Shakespeare in the Park modified its costuming for its production of “Julius Caesar” so that the title character resembled the new U.S. president. After the actor playing a Trump-resembling Caesar pretended to succumb to the many wounds inflicted by the conspiracy of assassins, the character Brutus implored his co-conspirators to, “Stoop, Romans, stoop, and let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood up to the elbows and besmear our swords.” In doing so, Brutus forced the other conspirators to become indivisibly responsible for the coup. Nobody could turn on the other plotters if everyone had Caesar’s blood on their sword.
In an irony almost lost to history, the play-acting coup against the image of Trump had an analogue in reality. At that same moment in June 2017, Kevin Clinesmith forwarded two emails to his fellow conspirators who lied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to spy on Trump campaign figure Carter Page.
One email reflected that Carter Page worked as a source for the CIA to gather information on the Russians. That email exposed the entire Carter Page FISA spying as completely unnecessary and therefore totally illegal.
Page had previously used the Washington Post to offer an interview with FBI agents about his contacts with Russia. Page addressed a letter directly to FBI Director James Comey shortly before the FBI certified that intrusive spying was the only way to explore those contacts. The forwarded email documented that Page had a long history of providing reliable information to the CIA on the very subject about which the FBI sought to invade his privacy.
To hide this fact, Clinesmith created a second email by doctoring the first to read “not a source.” Clinesmith’s lawyer, Justin Shur, contends his client “did not try to hide the C.I.A. email from other law enforcement officials as they sought the final renewal of the Page wiretap. Mr. Clinesmith had provided the unchanged C.I.A. email to Crossfire Hurricane agents and the Justice Department lawyer drafting the original wiretap application.”
Thus, if you believe Clinesmith’s attorney, each conspirator was forced, figuratively, to bathe his hands in blood. By sending both the doctored and undoctored version of the same email, Clinesmith made sure each of them knew that the conspiracy would involve filing a fraudulent document with the FISA court. This may explain why, more than three years later, the conspirators never turned on each other. Like a 2017 version of Brutus, Clinesmith made sure that if he went down, he would be able to take down the other conspirators as well.
But Clinesmith now appears positioned to cash in on that insurance policy. In a stunning development on Friday, the New York Times reported that Clinesmith intends to plead guilty to a criminal charge of falsifying a court document and that Clinesmith has made a deal with prosecutors.
It was previously reported that “in June of 2017, the CIA sent an email to the FBI restating that Mr. Page had been an asset.” While that’s true, the charging document against Clinesmith dropped this bombshell:
On August 17, 2016, prior to the approval of FISA #1, the [CIA] provided certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memorandum (“August 17 Memorandum”) indicating that [Carter Page] had been approved as an ‘operational contact for the [CIA] from 2008 to 2013 and detailing information that [Page] had provided to the [CIA] concerning [Page’s] prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers. The first three FISA applications did not include [Page’s] history or status with the [CIA].
While Clinesmith claims to have shared the two versions (the doctored email and the original) with some of the conspirators, he is also charged with lying to the supervisory special agent who was the affiant on the fourth FISA application. Nevertheless, the charging document makes clear that the CIA notified the FBI that Page was a source in 2016 before the first FISA warrant was even issued. Thus, the charging document strongly suggests that Durham is zeroing in on several other conspirators who participated in deceiving the FISA court.
Normally, former FBI Director James Comey fearlessly weighs in on developments in the Russia collusion hoax. He personally certified the necessity of the FISA warrant to spy on Page, even though Page wrote him an open letter offering to sit for an FBI interview about his Russian contacts.
Had Comey disclosed Page’s offer to the court, it would have denied the warrant until the FBI tried the less-invasive method. The FBI ignored an offer of a voluntary interview because they were more interested in spying on Page than finding out what he knew. Why? Because Page wasn’t the real target. The FBI had a political agenda against Donald Trump and Page’s affiliation with the political campaign provided the bureau a potential source of dirt that it could use as ammunition.
All of this would have been very easy for Robert Mueller to know as he investigated the Russia collusion hoax. Why didn’t Mueller expose this criminal behavior? One reason might be that Clinesmith was part of the Mueller team.
Clinesmith personally interrogated another Trump associate, George Papadopolous, helping Mueller notch the trophy conviction. As the Washington Examiner reported, Clinesmith is also the FBI lawyer who, on November 9, 2016, wrote, “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?” Clinesmith (or “FBI Attorney 2”) is referenced 56 times in the 2018 inspector general report criticizing the politicization of the Clinton email investigation.
All of this leads back to current FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has been fighting a concerted rear-guard effort to protect dirty FBI agents and lawyers from the consequences of their meddling in the 2016 election. Although he did not take the leadership position of the FBI until shortly after Clinesmith’s FISA deception, Wray is known to have consistently slowed or obstructed both the FISA court and congressional efforts to get to the bottom of what happened.
Most recently, the president criticized Wray for obstructing Congress. This raises the question of a constitutional crisis as the FBI appears also to be defying the chief executive’s wishes to cooperate with Congress. Legally, Wray, much like Wray’s boss, the attorney general, borrows all of his authority from the president himself.
In another example, Wray allowed Clinesmith to quietly resign in late 2019 shortly before the inspector general’s report disclosed Clinesmith’s deception to the FISA court. John Durham and Attorney General William Barr deserve credit for finally penetrating the deep state wall of silence to hold somebody accountable for the criminal actions of the men and women charged with upholding the law. The fact that Wray still has a job is a troubling sign that the FBI has become more powerful than the constitutional forces that are supposed to control it.