Yesterday, I remarked that Adam Schiff, for repeatedly and shamelessly lying and falsifying evidence to try to get political adversaries imprisoned, should be disbarred. (Others, notably Mark Levin, have agreed.) Of course, for that to happen, lawyers themselves would have to hold their profession to at least some level of ethical standards. Unsurprisingly, that's not happening.
Consider the case of Kevin Clinesmith, who, as you’ll recall, was convicted of doctoring evidence used in a FISA application for a surveillance warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page. (By extension, the whole Trump campaign, even going back in time to before the warrant was issued, could have been surveilled.) With the click of a few keys, Clinesmith turned a document that said Page had previously worked with the CIA into one that said he had not. Clinesmith pleaded guilty in August of 2020 and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation in January.
You’d think the DC bar would have sought to pull his law license for something that egregious –- according to Paul Sperry at RealClear Investigations, this is customary –- but they did not. “Normally, the bar automatically suspends the license of members who plead guilty of a felony,” he reported. But they waited five long months to put Clinesmith, a registered Democrat who sent anti-Trump rants to his FBI colleagues, on even an interim suspension, taking action only after RCI exposed their delay. At that point, they temporarily suspended him “pending a review and a hearing.”
They even allowed him to negotiate his fate, which according to Sperry is quite unusual in a case involving a serious crime. Clinesmith had even broken the bar’s own rule by taking five months to report his guilty plea to them, when he was required to do this within 10 days.
In September, the court that oversees the bar and imposes sanctions decided to let Clinesmith off suspension with time served. The Democrat-controlled Board on Professional Responsibility –- I’ll pause while you fall to the floor laughing –- had rubber-stamped the very light sentence he had negotiated with Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton “Phil” Fox, a major Democrat donor. The board did this without even checking with Clinesmith’s probation officer to see if he had violated the terms of his sentence or if he’d completed his required 400 hours of community service.
In order to let Clinesmith off so lightly, Fox concluded that he'd had “no personal motive” in deceiving the court. (Never mind those vicious anti-Trump rants of his.) Fox also had to disregard key findings by Durham about Clinesmith’s intent to deceive the FISA court. Fox apparently just took Clinesmith’s word that he'd thought the change he’d made was accurate. Why, it was merely a “shortcut” to save time (!) and he’d had no intent to deceive FBI agents or the FISA court. Obviously, that is not what was found by Durham, who as evidence cited a revealing internal email between Clinesmith and the FBI agent preparing the application. Durham also cited as plausible motivating factors Clinesmith’s partisan political views and personal dislike of Trump.
Nevertheless, Clinesmith has been restored as an active member in good standing of the DC bar, presumably by others who were motivated by their own partisan political views and personal dislike of Trump.
Sperry did determine that Clinesmith had done some community service, volunteering at the nonprofit group Street Sense Media, but that he stopped last summer. It’s not known how many hours he completed. To give you an idea of what sort of organization Street Sense Media is, Clinesmith’s job was to help edit and research articles for their weekly newspaper, which has articles for the homeless about how to “sleep on the streets” and calls for prison reform and “a universal living wage.”
Sounds as though he was really in his element. Who says punishment can’t be fun? On the other hand, isn’t editing how Clinesmith got in trouble in the first place?
Another condition of his plea deal was that he cooperate with the FBI’s Inspection Division to determine if he was involved in any other surveillance abuses related to the FISA court. This would have involved turning over any relevant materials he had. If he failed to do this, he could be charged with perjury and/or obstruction. Bar officials did not bother to check on this before reinstating him.
U.S. District Judge Jeb Boasberg, a Democrat appointed by President Obama, is the judge who spared Clinesmith jail time in his plea agreement. Clinesmith served out his probation from home. Boasberg also decided that losing his FBI job and its $150,000 salary was enough, so he did not impose the $10,000 fine. Clinesmith’s passport was returned to him. He got to skip the periodic drug testing, too. “Best of luck to you,” the judge told him as they parted.
So, are we looking at a double standard of justice? For comparison, let’s look at Boasberg’s treatment of former Trump attorney and Republican Rudy Giuliani. Boasberg recently opened an official ethics investigation of Giuliani, whom he also put under “temporary disciplinary suspension” pending the outcome. (I wonder if the judge will wish Rudy the best of luck.) In July, Rudy was also placed on interim suspension from the New York Bar. He has not been charged with any crime, let alone convicted of one.
But even though Clinesmith has been lovingly re-embraced by the slightly sticky arms of his fellow DC lawyers, he might still be in deeper trouble with Special Counsel John Durham. According to Sperry, Durham’s mandate “is broader than commonly understood.” Yes, he’s examining the legal justification (or lack thereof) of the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into supposed Trump-Russia “collusion.” But he’s also looking into their inquiry, such as it was, into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal, non-secure email server to handle her official and classified State Department business, and also her destruction of over 30,000 subpoenaed emails from her tenure as Secretary of State. Clinesmith was deeply involved in that, too.
Durham is also said to be looking into the actions of Robert Mueller’s special counsel. As it happens, Clinesmith was also the liaison between Mueller’s office and the FBI. In fact, he was the only attorney from FBI headquarters assigned to Mueller. He was in the center of it all.
Durham had argued before Judge Boasberg that Clinesmith’s offense, creating a fake document as a false pretense to spy on an American citizen, was “a very serious crime with significant repercussions" and said it made him unfit to practice law. Apparently this made no dfference to the DC Bar. One of Sperry’s sources with direct knowledge of the case, a longstanding member of the DC Bar, said what we’re all thinking: “The District of Columbia is a very liberal bar. Basically, they went light on him because he’s also a Democrat who hated Trump.”
So that’s why Clinesmith hasn’t been disbarred. Adam Schiff would have to be disbarred in California, so don’t hold your breath on that one, either. I'm all for it, though, even though it would merely be symbolic since all he does is "play" lawyer in congressional kangaroo courts and his membership has been inactive since 2001.