By Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett

August 14, 2020 at 5:28 p.m. CDT

A former FBI lawyer has agreed to plead guilty to altering an email that helped justify surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser as part of the 2016 investigation into Russian interference in the election, according to his lawyer and a person familiar with the matter.

Kevin Clinesmith, who worked in the FBI general counsel’s office, is expected to admit he doctored an email so it said that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was not a source for the CIA, even though Page previously had a relationship with the agency. Relying on what Clinesmith had said, the FBI ultimately did not disclose Page’s relationship with the CIA as it applied to renew a warrant to monitor him as a possible agent of a foreign power.

The case is the first against someone involved in the Russia probe brought by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General William P. Barr to broadly look into how the FBI handled that matter.

Trump signals impatience with FBI director’s cooperation with reviews of Russia investigation

Clinesmith is hardly a household name, and the allegations against him have been known since last year, when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a report excoriating the bureau for its handling of the applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to monitor Page.

Court documents filed in the Clinesmith case do not allege a broader political or anti-Trump conspiracy within the FBI or Justice Department, and a person familiar with the matter said Clinesmith does not intend to describe any such efforts when he enters his plea. This person, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case.

It was not immediately clear when Clinesmith would formally enter his plea.

Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham. (AP)

President Trump brought up the expected plea at the beginning of an afternoon news conference, calling Clinesmith “a very corrupt FBI attorney who falsified FISA warrants in James Comey’s very corrupt FBI” and suggesting Durham would uncover wider wrongdoing. FISA is an acronym for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law under which the FBI was applying to monitor Page.

“That’s just the beginning, I would imagine, because what happened should never happen again,” Trump said.

Tim Murtaugh, his campaign’s communications director, also issued a lengthy statement alleging that the “Obama-Biden Administration weaponized the FBI and Department of Justice against their political opponent” and “undermined the peaceful transition of power.”

“Together, these abuses of power represent the greatest political crime in American history,” Murtaugh said. “Everyone involved in this plot to hurt our country must be held accountable for their corruption and perverting our democratic institutions — especially Joe Biden.”

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