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‘Spygate’ figure Stefan Halper wanted to be Trump’s secretary of state, recording suggests

A newly released audio recording of Cambridge professor Stefan Halper revealed that the “Spygate” figure harbored ambitions of being President Trump’s secretary of state even after serving as an FBI informant against Trump’s campaign.

The revelation was made by former State Department official Steven Schrage on Sunday, who shared a recorded conversation he claims was between himself and Halper on Jan. 10, 2017, showing the FBI informant hoped to join the highest levels of the Trump administration after Trump’s surprise victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Schrage, who claims to have spoken with U.S. Attorney John Durham in his inquiry of the Russia investigation and who has broken his yearslong silence during back-to-back interviews with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News, also said Halper later told him that the professor had been offered the ambassadorship to the Philippines under Trump.

“But you have no desire to go back in, unless there’s something, there’s nothing that would appeal to you?” Schrage said during the purported January 2017 discussion, which he told Bartiromo he was recording as part of his Ph.D. dissertation discussions with the Cambridge professor.

“They’ve already given it away,” Halper said. “They’ve already given it away: secretary of state.”

Schrage then asked if that would be Halper’s “dream job.”

“Um, it be a good job to have. I’d enjoy it, yeah,” Halper said. “I would be happy with deputy [secretary of state], as well.”

A report on the FBI’s Russia investigation released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in December said the bureau concealed significant information provided by Halper, a confidential human source who was dubbed “Source 2.” Halper, 75, a Virginia resident and Cambridge professor, worked as an FBI informant in 2016 and recorded discussions with at least three Trump 2016 campaign members: campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, campaign associate Carter Page, and campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis. While Halper worked for the FBI, he received thousands of dollars from the Pentagon ostensibly for academic research.

When Halper’s role as an FBI informant was leaked to the media in May 2018, it led to accusations from Trump and Republicans that the Obama administration used Halper as part of an illegal effort to spy on the Trump campaign, dubbed “Spygate” and later “Obamagate” by allies of the president. The recorded denials of Russian collusion made by Page and Papadopoulos were never passed to the FISA court.

Schrage shed new light on Halper’s apparent desire to try to insinuate himself into Trump’s orbit, with Schrage claiming, “I was quite shocked, and he had mentioned he claimed he had met with Ivanka Trump, other things he was pushing very hard for administration posts in different ways.”

Schrage added, “The question is: did the FBI know, did the top leaders of the FBI know, that a spy was trying to infiltrate different positions in the Trump administration?”

In 2018, Axios reported that Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro “recommended appointing Stefan Halper … to a senior role in the Trump administration” during the presidential transition period, asking that Halper be considered “for ambassador roles in Asia.” A White House official told Axios that Halper visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in August 2017 for a meeting on China and “pitched himself for an ambassadorship in Asia.” A White House official told the outlet that “recommending outside policy experts for roles within the administration is a pretty typical and routine action for White House officials.”

Last week, Schrage revealed another Halper recording he claimed was from the same day in January 2017, in which Halper said he did not think retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was “going to be around long.” A couple of days later, a Washington Post story by David Ignatius containing classified leaks about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador and speculation about possible Logan Act violations was published. Schrage has strongly suggested that Halper had some foreknowledge of that report, telling Bartiromo, “I don’t think he had any independent reason to expect that this would happen to Flynn.” He did not provide firm evidence.

Schrage, who invited Page to a Cambridge University seminar in the summer of 2016 and appears to be the reason Halper met Page, has looped Halper into a group he calls “the Cambridge Four.” He wrote in journalist Matt Taibbi’s Substack newsletter that the group is rounded out by British ex-spy and discredited dossier author Christopher Steele, former MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove, and Halper and Dearlove’s associate, former MI5 official Christopher Andrew. Halper organized the Cambridge Intelligence Seminars, gatherings of academics and intelligence officials, and Dearlove has called Steele’s reputation “superb.” Recently declassified footnotes indicate Steele’s anti-Trump dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Bartiromo in July 2019 that Schrage need to be scrutinized and said, “The fact that he hasn’t come forward in two-and-a-half years is highly suspect.”

Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born British citizen, claimed in a 2019 lawsuit that Halper “embroiled an innocent woman,” Lokhova herself, “in a conspiracy to undo the 2016 presidential election.” Halper demanded the federal court have claims labeling him a “spy” and “rat f—er” be dismissed and his accuser be sanctioned by the judge. The lawsuit was dismissed in February, but Lokhova filed an appeal.

Lokhova attended a Cambridge seminar in 2014 that was also attended by Flynn, then-President Barack Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency director, who later played a prominent role in Trump’s campaign and was swept up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Lokhova attended as a graduate student and claimed Halper used this dinner as a pretext to spread false rumors about her and Flynn.

Halper responded by claiming Lokhova’s accusations were “spurious” and referred to her accusations about a coup against Trump as “implausible conspiracy theories.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has pushed for information about Halper’s role getting paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment while acting as an FBI informant dispatched to speak with members of the Trump campaign.

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President Trump’s Younger Brother, Robert Trump, Dies

President Donald Trump’s younger brother, Robert Trump, died Saturday night in a New York City hospital.

“It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight,” Trump said in a statement Saturday evening.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for a Christmas Eve dinner with his family at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on December 24, 2019. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

“He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again,” the president continued in the statement. “His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.” (RELATED: Trump Tells Hannity He’d Consider Pardoning Those Convicted In The Mueller Investigation)

President Trump reportedly visited Robert, 71, in his NYC hospital on Friday, spending roughly an hour at his bedside.

It was Robert’s second hospitalization since June, when he spent more than a week in the intensive care unit of an NYC hospital.

“Uncle Robert, we love you. You are in our hearts and prayers, always,” Ivanka Trump tweeted Saturday night.

Eric Trump said his uncle “was an incredible man – strong, kind and loyal to the core.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Robert Trump’s correct age, 71.

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Trump Ads Attack Biden Through Deceptive Editing and Hyperbole

President Trump’s re-election campaign has spent tens of millions of dollars on television ads attacking his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. While their content varies greatly, be it the coronavirus, police funding, taxes or charter schools, the tactics used remain constant: selectively edited remarks and exaggerations.

The New York Times reviewed 22 ads from the Trump campaign that have aired since June and that have been tracked by Advertising Analytics. We found that 14 of those ads contained clearly misleading claims or videos. Here’s a review.

Throughout much of June and July, the ads have focused on activists’ calls to defund the police with hyperbolic warnings about the ramifications.

One, titled “Break-In,” begins with a voice describing “Seattle’s pledge to defund its police department by 50 percent, even including a proposal to remove 911 dispatchers from police control” as an older woman notices someone breaking into her house and dials 911.

The woman’s call is then answered by a voice recording: “You have reached 911. I’m sorry that there is no one here to answer your emergency call. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”

Seven of Seattle’s nine council members support cutting and reprogramming 50 percent of the police department’s budget, but have yet to lay out a specific plan, while the city’s Democratic mayor and police chief oppose the goal.

Council members did express interest in a proposal from activists seeking to replace the police department’s call center with a system controlled by civilians. It would not end the use of emergency dispatchers altogether, as the voice mail message in the ad suggests.

Another spot devotes the entire 30 seconds to a more elaborate version of the emergency call voice mail, overlaid with text claiming that “violent crime has exploded” because of calls to defund the police — a claim echoed in three additional Trump campaign ads.

But that’s largely false. Compared with the same time period last year, violent crime and property crime have decreased through June in large American cities this year, though murders have increased.

Those ominous ad blitzes have run in major markets in swing states during programs with broad appeal like the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” “Jeopardy!” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” according to data from Advertising Analytics.

A Trump campaign ad running during shows popular with Black audiences — “Maury,” “The Steve Wilkos Show” and “The Wendy Williams Show” — is sounding a different message: “Mass incarceration has put hundreds of thousands behind bars for minor offenses. Joe Biden wrote those laws.”

But it is wrong to blame Mr. Biden, who sponsored the Senate version of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, for mass incarceration. States began passing harsher sentencing laws in the 1970s and 1980s. Though the federal crime bill encouraged the trend, it was not the genesis or principal factor.

Several Trump campaign ads falsely claim Mr. Biden supports defunding the police, heavily raising taxes on middle-class families and eliminating charter schools.

“Break-In” features the Fox News host Sean Hannity claiming, “Joe Biden said he’s absolutely on board with defunding the police” before a clip of Mr. Biden saying, “Yes, absolutely.”

The former vice president has repeatedly said that he does not support calls to defund the police entirely, but that federal grants to police departments should incentivize reform efforts and best practices while specific decisions about funding should be made at a local level.

“I don’t support defunding the police,” Mr. Biden said in June in an interview with CBS. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”

Asked during a June town hall event about Los Angeles’s decision to shift $150 million from its police department, Mr. Biden responded: “Some places, they’re short on having enough people to cover the community or others the police departments have a lot more than they need. And so it depends on the community.”

The Trump campaign ad also took Mr. Biden’s comment out of context. In a July discussion, the prominent liberal activist Ady Barkan asked Mr. Biden whether he would support redirecting “some of the funding for police into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing.”

Mr. Biden agreed and listed his proposals to increase funding for mental health clinics, more federal oversight of police departments, and restricting military equipment sold to the police.

“But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” Mr. Barkan asked.

“Yes, absolutely,” Mr. Biden responded.

The published version of that conversation edited out some of Mr. Biden’s remarks that made his positions clearer. In the full version, provided to The Times by the Biden campaign, Mr. Biden emphasized that his proposals were “not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police” and repeated that he believed federal grants to departments should be “conditioned.”

Other spots warn that Mr. Biden “supports massive taxes on working families.” A new ad titled “Takeover” misleadingly cites the Tax Policy Center to claim that he would impose “trillions in new taxes, crushing middle-class families.”

Analysis from the center does show that Mr. Biden’s tax proposals would generate an additional $4 trillion in federal revenue over the next decade, but the Trump campaign is wrong that this would come from the middle class. Rather, the wealthiest top 1 percent of taxpayers would bear about three-quarters of tax increases. In contrast, middle-class taxpayers would see an average increase of $260, totaling 2.4 percent of the total burden.

“Takeover” and a similar ad called “In His Own Words” also take a Biden quotation out of context: “If you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut.”

That remark occurred at an event in February in South Carolina, where Mr. Biden asked the audience, to laughs, “How many of you did really well with that $1.9 trillion tax cut?” When one audience member answered affirmatively, Mr. Biden addressed that person specifically. “I’m glad to see you doing well already,” he said. “But guess what, if you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut if you benefited from that.”

Mr. Biden has long criticized the 2017 tax cut as disproportionately benefiting the rich, though his criticisms have veered into exaggerations when he said only the rich received tax cuts. His comment in South Carolina was a riff on that theme.

In a Spanish-language ad, the Trump campaign exaggerated Mr. Biden’s stance on charter schools: “Democrats and Biden are too extreme. Socialism, cut police funding, take away charter schools and Biden is too weak to defend us.”

The ad cites a an education forum MSNBC hosted in December with Democratic presidential hopefuls in which Mr. Biden criticized Education Secretary Betsy Devos’s policy on sexual assaults on college campuses.

“If I’m president, Betsy DeVos’s whole notion from charter schools to this are gone,” Mr. Biden said.

That line, however, is not representative of Mr. Biden’s position on charter schools. He was referring to his opposition to Ms. DeVos’s support for voucher programs for charter schools, according to a spokesman. He supports continuing federal funding for high-performing public charter schools.

The Trump campaign has taken shots at Mr. Biden’s mental acuity through deceptively edited videos and images.

One ad and its Spanish version call Mr. Biden “clearly diminished” and include a clip of Mr. Biden saying, “Sometimes I wake up and think it’s 1920.”

While Mr. Biden has been prone to gaffes on the campaign trail, that specific comment is not an example of one. Rather, it is how Mr. Biden has occasionally expressed dismay over the current social and political atmosphere.

“Some mornings that I wake up, I wonder whether or not we are living in 2020 or 1920,” he said in January in Texas. “I hear the voices of intolerance singing the chorus of hate, intolerance.”

“As I said in your church, rev, sometimes I wake up and think it’s 1920 and not 2020,” Mr. Biden at a February event in South Carolina. “The way in which we talk to one another today, the way in which — the debasing of politics that has occurred, the way in which this president, Trump, has so demeaned individuals.”

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com.

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Waiting On Justice: It’s Been Four Years

After more than four years, Department of Justice prosecutor John Durham is finally going to give us a small piece of what he’s been working on since being appointed to investigate the FBI’s now-debunked probe into President Donald Trump and Russia.

The American people vested in the story and lawmakers who have spent years investigating it are more than frustrated and they have reason to be. A duly elected president and the American people had their constitutional rights trampled on and have witnessed egregious malfeasance with agencies that have been entrusted to uphold the law.

Former senior Obama administration officials used and abused the trust of the American people. The senior officials weaponized federal law enforcement, as well as U.S. intelligence assets to spy on a political opponent. When these former senior officials couldn’t derail President Trump’s campaign or his electability, they continued to target his administration and for the last nearly four years they tried to derail his presidency.

After several years of do nothing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several interim AGs, we still have not seen justice in one of the biggest political scandals in modern history.

If today’s decision by Durham is to issue several smaller indictments against low rung employees then we know justice will not be fully served.

The simplest indictment would be against FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who falsified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page. Page, who was a volunteer for the 2016 Trump campaign, is now suing multiple media outlets for falsifying information against him. The warrant allowed the FBI to spy on Page’s communications and allowed them access into the Trump campaign.

But Clinesmith was not alone in his actions. Neither were any of the other FBI agents that spied on Trump’s campaign. These actions were approved and managed by senior-level officials like FBI Director James Comey and his Deputy Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. Andy Biggs told me Friday morning that Barr’s statements to Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday night about Durham’s announcement is concerning. He noted that Barr’s statement that the information will not be “earth shattering” is an indication that not enough is being done.

I absolutely agree with Biggs. He wasn’t the only one I spoke to this morning in Congress that is concerned about the direction of the Department of Justice and the ongoing investigation into the FBI’s probe. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

It should only be hours before we know whether or not we have a two-tiered justice system and bureaucrats so powerful they operate with impunity.

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Kamala Harris Was Picked for VP to ‘To Insulate Joe Biden From Racism’ Fox Guest Says

Civil rights attorney Leo Terrell has doubled down on his criticism of Vice President Joe Biden’s choice of running mate, claiming that Kamala Harris was “picked for the wrong reason.”

After appearing on Hannity earlier this week in which he said that Harris was “not qualified” to run on the Democrat ticket, Terrell, a former Democrat supporter who has switched his allegiance to President Donald Trump, continued his attack on the California senator in another segment on Fox.

Before launching into his broadside, Terrell donned a MAGA hat and said that the “problem is very simple. Kamala Harris was picked for the wrong reason. She was picked as a way to insulate Joe Biden from racism. Joe Biden has been a person who said ‘wait, if you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black.’

“Black people think the same way. My point is simply this, Mia Love, Tim Scott, they were picked on merit,” he said, referring to the first black female Republican elected to Congress, and the Senator for South Carolina.

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Joe Biden (R) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) sign documents for Democratic nomination on August 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Civil rights attorney Leo Terrell has criticized the nomination.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, announced Harris as his running mate earlier this week making her the first black woman to be chosen on either the Democratic or Republican Party’s presidential ticket.

Terrell said: “This country is about merit. Kamala Harris is an affirmative action selection to insulate Joe Biden about the racist attitudes he’s had for the last 40 years. The one thing that Kamala Harris did say that was right is that Joe Biden is a racist.”

President Donald Trump’s 2020 election campaign released a statement this week claiming Harris had accused Biden of being a racist. Although Harris has criticized Biden for saying he could work with two former senators who opposed desegregation in the 1970s, and for opposing busing policies, Harris explicitly said to Biden during a Democrat debate: “I do not believe you are a racist.”

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Terrell went on to praise President Donald Trump’s moves to fund black historical colleges, and attempts to justice reform and police reform through the Senate, adding, “Donald Trump has done more for black Americans than Obama, Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Terrell, who is also a talk radio host in Los Angeles was a prominent Democrat now turned Trump supporter. He has been criticized for turning his back on the Democrats which he said in an interview with the Daily Caller had been “hijacked by Black Lives Matter.”

He has also taken issue with Biden, saying that the former Vice President “made the assumption that if you’re black you have to vote Democrat.” Newsweek has contacted the Biden campaign for comment.

The graph below from Statista shows Harris’s popularity among Democrats.

Kamala Harris polling
This graph shows YouGov polling about Kamala Harris’ popularity among registered Democratic voters.
Statista
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Ex-FBI Lawyer Kevin Clinesmith To Plead Guilty In Durham Probe, Trump Says It’s ‘Just The Beginning’

Developing and Breaking

FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who falsified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page, is expected to plead guilty Friday in the Department of Justice Prosecutor John Durham’s probe into the FBI’s now-debunked probe into President Donald Trump and Russia, The New York Times is reporting Friday.

During a news conference Friday, President Donald Trump called both Clinesmith and the FBI run by James Comey “corrupt,” adding that Friday’s news is “just the beginning, I would imagine. What happened should never happen again.”

“So, he is pleading guilty,” Trump said. “Terrible thing, terrible thing. The fact is they spied on my campaign and they got caught and you’ll be hearing more.”

Clinesmith “plans to admit that he altered an email from the C.I.A. that investigators relied on to seek renewed court permission in 2017 for a secret wiretap on the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who had at times provided information to the spy agency. Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyers said he made a mistake while trying to clarify facts for a colleague, the people said,” according to the paper.

On Thursday night, Attorney General William Barr told Sean Hannity that there would be “significant developments” Friday, but noted they wouldn’t be “earth shattering.” It was something the American people have been waiting for for nearly four years.

“The simplest indictment would be against FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who falsified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page. Page, who was a volunteer for the 2016 Trump campaign, is now suing multiple media outlets for falsifying information against him,” Sara A. Carter wrote in a column Friday before any announcements were made.

She added, “The warrant allowed the FBI to spy on Page’s communications and allowed them access into the Trump campaign. But Clinesmith was not alone in his actions. Neither were any of the other FBI agents that spied on Trump’s campaign.” 

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Former FBI lawyer to plead guilty in probe into origins of Russia investigation

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty as part the investigation led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a source close to the matter. This is the first criminal case arising from the Durham probe.  Court documents posted Friday show Clinesmith faces one count of “false statements.”

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found in his December 2019 report that Clinesmith had altered a CIA email cited in the fourth application to the FISA court to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2017. 

In helping to prepare the application, Clinesmith was asked by an FBI supervisory special agent whether Page had ever been a government agency source, as Page had publicly claimed.

Clinesmith altered an email stating that Page was a government “source,” adding words to make it appear that the government agency, later revealed to be the CIA, was saying that Page “was not a source,” according to the Justice Department’s information in the case. 

He later told the FBI agent in an instant message that Page “was a ‘subsource’ and ‘was never a source.'” Asked whether this information was in writing, Clinesmith sent the altered email.

The government information points out that each FISA application “alleged there was probable cause that Individual #1 (Page) was a knowing agent” of Russia. 

That Page had a prior relationship with the CIA providing information as an operational contact about Russia would have been relevant to the surveillance application, and Page has argued it went a long way to explaining his contacts with Russians.

The Mueller report ultimately found that the government investigation “did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government” in its attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Clinesmith’s attorney said in a statement, “Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email. It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate.  But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility.”

The source said that Clinesmith’s lawyer approached Durham’s office about a deal after FBI records declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month showed that Clinesmith was part of a team using a 2016 defensive briefing to track Russia questions from Flynn and then-candidate Trump. The source said the expectation is that Clinesmith will cooperate with Durham’s investigation which is typical in plea deals. He is expected to be asked, regarding both the 2016 defensive briefing and the altered CIA email, whether he acted independently or at the direction of, or with the approval of his FBI leadership. 

Clinesmith was previously faulted for sending inappropriate texts, including “viva la resistance,” a few weeks after the 2016 election.

An FBI spokesperson said in a statement, “Under Director Wray’s leadership, the FBI has been, and will continue to be, fully cooperative with Mr. Durham’s review. This includes providing documents and assigning personnel to assist his team.” 

Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday evening there would soon be developments in the Durham probe, including one on Friday. Barr said it wouldn’t be “earth-shattering,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview Thursday, but he also added that the timeline of the investigation wouldn’t be “dictated” by the upcoming election in November.

“I have said there are going to be developments, significant developments, before the election. But we’re not doing this on the election schedule. We’re aware of the election. We’re not going to do anything inappropriate before the election,” Barr said. “But we’re not being dictated to by this schedule. What’s dictating the timing of this are developments in the case.”

He summed up the “development in the case” to be revealed Friday as “an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation.”

In May 2019, Barr asked Durham to further review the government’s Russia probe, after former special counsel Robert Mueller released his report. The attorney general had previously expressed concern about possible “improper surveillance” of the Trump campaign

The review Horowitz released in December found several procedural errors but overall no “political bias” by the agency.

However, Durham questioned the conclusions of Horowitz’s report at the time.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in December.

Andres Triay contributed to this report.

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Ex-F.B.I. Lawyer Expected to Plead Guilty in Review of Russia Inquiry

WASHINGTON — A former F.B.I. lawyer intends to plead guilty after he was charged with falsifying a document as part of a deal with prosecutors conducting their own criminal inquiry of the Russia investigation, according his lawyer and court documents made public on Friday.

The lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, 38, who was assigned to the Russia investigation, plans to admit that he altered an email from the C.I.A. that investigators relied on to seek renewed court permission in 2017 for a secret wiretap on the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who had at times provided information to the spy agency. Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyer said he made a mistake while trying to clarify facts for a colleague.

Mr. Clinesmith had written texts expressing opposition to President Trump, who is sure to tout the plea agreement as evidence that the Russia investigation was illegitimate and politically motivated. Mr. Trump has long been blunt about seeing the continuing investigation by the prosecutor examining the earlier inquiry, John H. Durham, as political payback whose fruits he would like to see revealed in the weeks before the election.

Attorney General William P. Barr has portrayed Mr. Durham’s work as rectifying what he sees as injustices by officials who sought in 2016 to understand links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s covert operation to interfere in the election.

Prosecutors did not reveal any evidence in charging documents that show Mr. Clinesmith’s actions were part of any broader conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump. And the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has found that law enforcement officials had sufficient reason to open the Russia investigation, known inside the F.B.I. as Crossfire Hurricane, and found no evidence that they acted with political bias.

As part of their efforts to dissuade prosecutors from charging Mr. Clinesmith, his lawyers argued that his motives were benign, and other evidence indicated that he had not tried to hide the C.I.A. email from his colleagues,

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyer, Justin Shur, said in a statement. “It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate. But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility. ”

Mr. Clinesmith was expected to be charged in federal court in Washington with a single felony count of making a false statement. He did not respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesman for Mr. Durham declined to comment.

Mr. Barr had previewed the agreement on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Thursday night, announcing that a development would occur in the investigation on Friday. “It’s not an earth-shattering development, but it is an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation,” he said.

It is highly unusual for law enforcement officials to publicly discuss ongoing investigations, but Mr. Barr has long made clear his distaste for the Russia investigation and his view that Mr. Durham would remedy any issues with it.

Though the sprawling Russia investigation that was eventually run by a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, uncovered the Kremlin’s complex operation to subvert the election and the Trump campaign’s expectation that it would benefit from foreign involvement, Republicans have seized on a narrow aspect of the inquiry — the investigation into Mr. Page — in a long-running quest to undermine it.

An energy executive with contacts in Russia, Mr. Page was brought on to advise the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016 as the candidate was solidifying his unexpected lead in the Republican primary race and scrambled to cobble together a foreign policy team.

Investigators eventually suspected that Russian spies had marked Mr. Page for recruitment. They first obtained permission from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016 to wiretap him, and the court agreed to extend the order three times in subsequent months.

After Republicans raised concerns about the information that investigators relied on to seek the court’s approval to eavesdrop on Mr. Page, Mr. Horowitz began an exhaustive review of the process.

In a report made public last year, Mr. Horowitz revealed that the applications were riddled with serious errors and omissions. Among other things, he had learned of a troubling series of events in which Mr. Page’s association with the C.I.A. was not accurately conveyed to the Justice Department and ultimately kept from the judges who approved the surveillance warrants.

Mr. Page had for years provided information to the C.I.A. about his contacts with Russian officials. In C.I.A. jargon, he was known as an operational contact — someone who agrees to be debriefed by agency personnel but cannot be assigned to collect information.

That relationship might have given law enforcement officials reason to be less suspicious of him. And the F.B.I. was told about it: A C.I.A. lawyer provided a list of documents in the August 2016 email at the heart of the case against Mr. Clinesmith that explained Mr. Page’s relationship with the agency.

But an F.B.I. case agent who learned about Mr. Page’s ties to the C.I.A. played them down while preparing the first wiretap application, according to the inspector general’s report. At the time, Mr. Clinesmith was not involved in determining whether Mr. Page was a C.I.A. source, people familiar with the case said.

But later in 2017, a supervisory F.B.I. agent handling the third and final renewal application asked Mr. Clinesmith for a definitive answer on whether Mr. Page had been an agency source, according to Mr. Horowitz’s report.

Mr. Clinesmith incorrectly said that Mr. Page was “never a source” and sent the C.I.A.’s information to the supervisor. He altered the original email to say that Mr. Page had not been a source — a material change to a document used in a federal investigation.

The agent relied on the altered email to submit the application seeking further court permission to wiretap Mr. Page, the inspector general wrote. By changing the email and then forwarding it, Mr. Clinesmith misrepresented the original content of the document, which prosecutors said was a crime.

Mr. Clinesmith did not change the document in an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.’s mistake. His lawyers argued that he had made the change in good faith because he did not think that Mr. Page had been an actual source for the C.I.A.

Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyers also argued that their 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.

Mr. Clinesmith had also urged investigators to send any information about an informant’s meeting in October 2016 with Mr. Page, including any exculpatory statements, to the Justice Department lawyer drafting the wiretap application. Mr. Clinesmith said this was “probably the most important” information to provide to the lawyer drafting the wiretap application.

Mr. Clinesmith was among the F.B.I. officials whom Mr. Mueller removed from the Russia investigation after Mr. Horowitz found messages they had exchanged expressing political animus against Mr. Trump. Shortly after Mr. Trump’s election victory, Mr. Clinesmith texted another official: “I honestly feel like there is going to be a lot more gun issues, too, the crazies won finally. This is the tea party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost.”

In another text, he wrote, “viva le resistance.”

Mr. Clinesmith told the inspector general that he was expressing his personal views but did not let them affect his work.

Mr. Clinesmith also argued against the prospect of wiretapping another former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, who served two weeks in jail on a charge of lying to the F.B.I., according to the Horowitz report. The inspector general said the bureau never sought to surveil him.

The prosecution of Mr. Clinesmith is just one aspect of Mr. Durham’s expansive investigation. He has also been examining the intelligence community’s most explosive conclusion about Russian interference in the 2016 election: that President Vladimir V. Putin intervened to benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Durham has also been scrutinizing the use of a notorious dossier in the wiretap applications that was compiled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.

Mr. Durham, who has previously investigated F.B.I. and C.I.A. abuses, has not tipped his hand at what he has found, though Mr. Barr has said some of the findings are “troubling.” Mr. Durham has said in a rare statement that he disagreed with some of Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions about how and why the F.B.I. opened the inquiry in the summer of 2016.

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“Can’t wait” to debate Harris

I bet he’s looking forward to it too, and maybe even more than Mike Pence lets on here. Most of this interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity last night consists of standard campaign fare. Pence calls Kamala Harris the most liberal member of the Senate (true) and provides a rundown of Team Trump’s arguments against Harris and Joe Biden. Pence does a good job of laying out those arguments with his usual polish, as one would expect from an experienced campaigner.

It’s his enthusiasm for the debate where Pence’s polish gives way ever so slightly to chops-licking:

Vice President Pence said Wednesday he “can’t wait” to debate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), named this week as former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate.

“I think she is a skilled debater, but I can’t wait to get to Salt Lake City and be on the stage with her,” Pence said in a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity.

Pence said he wants to compare Biden’s record and the “radical left agenda,” which he argued Harris has embraced, with the “results of this president and this administration.”

Pence’s “skilled debater” is a sop to the media coverage of the last two days, and likely a bit of a sandbagging attempt, too. (Don’t expect the same approach from Donald Trump, needless to say, regarding either Biden or Harris.) Pence wants to build up some goodwill ahead of the debate, plus set Harris up as a worthy adversary as a way to gain even more traction from a debate win in the next few weeks.

Her record as a “skilled debater,” however, is less than convincing — even though media outlets continue to promote that narrative. Even the Democrats who relied on the primary debates last year didn’t get that impression from Harris. Thanks to her debate performances, Harris went from shoo-in to shown-out before the year even ended. Getting dressed down by Tulsi Gabbard twice and cratering in polling after both debate embarrassments does not reflect “skills,” except for a talent for surrendering advantages.

So yes, Pence has every reason to look forward to his debate against Harris, and Democrats have every reason to be worried about it. One has to wonder whether they grow so worried about it that they produce a pretext to avoid the confrontation. Stay tuned.

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AG Bill Barr Goes on Hannity to Announce Launch of Operation Legend to Help Crack Down on Violent Crime in US Cities (VIDEO)



Breaking News: AG Bill Barr Goes on Hannity to Announce Launch of Operation Legend to Help Crack Down on Violent Crime in US Cities (VIDEO)


















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