Special counsel appointed under Trump seeks prison for former FBI lawyer

Sarah N. Lynch
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: FBI headquarters building is seen in Washington

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to falsifying a document during the agency's investigation of contacts between former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia is due to be sentenced on Friday, with a special counsel appointed under Trump asking a judge to have him serve prison time.

Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to altering an email used to justify a government wiretap of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, is set to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg.

Special counsel John Durham recommended up to six months in prison, suggesting Clinesmith acted out of "political or personal bias" against Trump. Defense lawyers asked to judge to spare Clinesmith of prison time, noting that he and his wife are expecting their first child in March.

Another former special counsel, Robert Mueller, documented numerous contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia including by Page. Mueller's report on his investigation said it "did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government" in its election interference aimed at boosting Trump's candidacy, but said Page's activities "were not fully explained."

Trump called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt" and sought to portray the 2016 FBI investigation as part of a scheme to harm him politically.

Bill Barr, appointed by Trump as attorney general, tapped Durham in 2019 to investigate the U.S. officials who probed the Trump-Russia contacts. Barr last month disclosed he had made Durham a special counsel in October, a position that would make it more difficult for new President Joe Biden's administration to remove him.

The case against Clinesmith so far is the only charge to come out of Durham's investigation. Clinesmith pleaded guilty to a felony false statement charge last August.

Durham is investigating the process the FBI used when it sought a warrant from a judge for surveillance on Page. Clinesmith admitted he inserted words into an email to make it appear falsely that Page had not been a past "operational contact" for the CIA.

Durham told the judge that while Clinesmith has "accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty," this does not "negate the need for a sentence of imprisonment." Carter, who was not charged in Mueller's investigation, is due to address the sentencing hearing as a victim of Clinesmith's crime.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)