Last week came the announcement that former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith would be pleading guilty to a federal crime in the government's investigation of Trump-Russia collusion.
What exactly did Clinesmith allegedly do wrong?
In simple terms, he allegedly doctored an email used to get a wiretap to spy on a Trump associate.
The wiretapping of former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page could have allowed the FBI to access past communications of many Trump officials-- and even Trump himself.
Kevin Clinesmith was a high level FBI attorney involved in both the ill-fated Trump-Russia collusion probe and the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified emails on a private server while secretary of state.
Clinesmith first appeared on the public radar last December after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed Clinesmith's alleged doctoring of an email presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.
The email involved whether Page had worked with U.S. intelligence in the past. Such a relationship is a required disclosure on the FBI's wiretap applications because it could cut into the credibility of the FBI's claim that the targeted suspect is really a foreign spy or terrorist. The FBI repeatedly claimed Page was acting as a Russian spy on behalf of the Trump campaign, and wiretapped him for over a year, while returning no evidence of their claims.
In August of 2016, the CIA had already notified the FBI it had a relationship with Page. When news of the FBI's investigation into Page was leaked to the press, Page also told the FBI in a letter that he had cooperated with and assisted the FBI and CIA in the past. Page also said so publicly.
For unexplained reasons, an agent FBI working to renew the wiretap on Page asked the question again of the CIA in June 2017. A CIA official again confirmed Page had a relationship with the agency, reportedly in an email to Clinesmith.
However, Clinesmith told the FBI agent the opposite, according to the Inspector General, that the CIA "confirmed explicitly" that Page was never a source. Clinesmith also allegedly doctored the email to read that Page has not been a CIA source.
Adding to the mystery surrounding the incident, Clinesmith reportedly separately provided the correct, unaltered email to a fellow Justice Department attorney, who has not been named.
This implies that at least one other FBI official knew the truth and either was part of a plot to cover up the crime committed in the Page case or simply remained publicly silent.
It also raises the question as to whether additional FBI officials knew or instructed the doctoring and coverup.
Not only is it unethical for a government official to falsify a document, attorneys are also covered by additional ethical standards that make such an alleged crime more egregious.
The Inspector General identified more than a dozen serious abuses and lapses made by government officials in their investigation of the Trump campaign. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into those findings. Clinesmith's expected guilty plea to one federal charge is the first criminal action taken in the case.
The Inspector General also found that Clinesmith is one of numerous FBI officials involved in the probe of Trump who expressed anti-Trump sentiment in text messages. One of Clinesmith's text messages read: “Viva le resistance.”