In August, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty in federal court to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation of the of the irregularities surrounding law enforcement actions regarding allegations of”collusion” between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, a manufactured charge used to delegitimize and undermine the Trump Presidency. Clinesmith’s guilty plea was to “one count of making a false statement within both the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the U.S. government, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.”
Clinesmith admitted that in June 2017, he had sent a deliberately altered email to an FBI agent falsely indicating that Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, was “not a source” for the Central Intelligence Agency. The email was used by the FBI to apply for a third extension of a FISA warrant justifying surveillance on Page. Paige had, in fact, been a source for the CIA. Clinesmith’s defense was that he had mistakenly thought the altered assertion in the email was correct, and he only altered it to save himself the trouble of getting a another email from the CIA.
If this doesn’t remind you of Dan Rather’s rationalization for using a forged document to accuse President George Bush of going AWOL while he was in the National Guard, it should. But Rather was just a journalist, albeit a one who carried the public trust. What he did was unethical, but what Clinesmith did was unethical and illegal. He knowingly manufactured evidence offered by the U.S. government to violate the Fourth Amendment Rights of a citizen, knowing that the warrant being sought would be used to spy on the Presidential campaign of the party opposing that of the sitting President, Barack Obama. The Trump Presidency was permanently sabotaged from its very start as a result of Clinesmith’s actions along with others in the Justice Department and FBI. Although the Mueller report found no evidence that any American anywhere, not just in the Trump campaign, coordinated with Russians to affect the 2016 election, the lie that Clinesmith facilitated constituted a deliberate effort by law enforcement officials to subvert a Presidential campaign and a President.
Yeasterday, Clinesmith was sentenced. U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, delivered the proverbial “slap on the wrist.” He sentenced him to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service. He will serve no jail time.
My son, 18 at the time of his offense, was given five years probation and spent six months in jail for a traffic violation, just to provide some basis for comparison.
Prosecutors had urged Boasberg to hand Clinesmith a prison sentence sending a clear message to others in government not to subvert the legal system. The judge, incredibly, said that the message had already been sent after the lawyer delivered an effective pre-sentence grovel. “Altering the email has forever changed the course of my life,” Clinesmith said. “I have lost the means to provide for my growing family…lost the ability to give back to my nation… the shame and remorse will stay with me forever.”
Hey, it’s OK, kid! Don’t get down on yourself! We all make mistakes. Boasberg justified his resorting to Rationalization #38 B, Excessive Accountability, or “He’s suffered enough,” saying,
[He] lost his job, and his government service is what has given his life much of its meaning. He was also earning $150,000 a year and who knows where the earnings go now. He may be disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, you may never be able to work in the national security field again. These are substantial penalties. What is more, he went from being an obscure career government lawyer to standing in the eye of a media hurricane. He has been threatened, vilified and abused on a nationwide scale.”
And he deserved every bit of it, poor baby. Quoting now from the Rationalization List description:
Prosecutors who don’t bring charges against individuals based on non-legal consequences of misconduct like loss of reputation, public esteem, employment or family relationships are adopting the position that a crime “carries its own punishment,” and that enforcing the law is inherently cruel, piling on, kicking someone who is not only down, but one who is kicking himself. But the father who accidentally kills his son by striking him too hard while in a rage; the mother whose toddler poisons herself by ingesting the crack cocaine her mother left on the table; the business executive who embezzles funds, Roman Polanski, Bernie, Madoff, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and many more have also engineered their own punishments. To conclude that society should just allow these and other offenses against society and civilization to occur without making the clear statement, “This is intolerable, and the person responsible for an avoidable tragedy must be held accountable by the law” constitutes a moral, ethical and legal shrug,
Punishment is about more than hurting a wrongdoer, It is also a necessary tool for maintaining society’s values, and expressing appropriate outrage, on the record, when they are violated. We can’t know for certain how much a wrongdoer has suffered or is suffering. We can make certain that society’s suffering because of a wrongdoer’s act is consistently and powerfully expressed. There is only one way for the community to effectively and unambiguously condemn anti-social conduct, and that is to condemn those who engage in it with punishment proportional to the enormity of the unethical actions. Making the wrongdoer “suffer enough’ is not the primary objective. The objective is to make a statement that cannot be misinterpreted now or years from now, that citizens have certain duties to each other, and when those duties are grievously breached, society will show its disapproval—no matter how much the wrongdoer may have suffered.
No such message was sent by this latest ethics shrug from the bench. In the long run, the deep state’s plot worked. Trump’s Presidency was kneecapped; he was defeated for re-election. The news media used the collusion accusation to fill news broadcasts and front pages for years with false innuendo that the President had stolen the election by employing the aid of a hostile power. Revelations of how partisan and corrupt the Justice Department’s efforts were received a fraction of the coverage. A large majority of Democrats still believe the false narrative that Clinesmith facilitated.
Just as Clinesmith’s excuse for changing the email rminded me of Dan Rather, his sentence reminded me of the fictional scene in “Mississippi Burning,” where a local judge, which noting that the men who had pleaded guilty to involvement in the killing of civil rights workers had done “wrong,” lets them off with time served. They grin widely and leave court as heroes.
After all, it worked.