Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith's guilty plea is just the "beginning" of the denouement of Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the Russia investigation, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy said Wednesday.
"You don’t win the game in the first inning," McCarthy told "Bill Hemmer Reports."
"I think that it's important [that] you have somebody who made a false statement, who’s plead guilty," he added. "I think the crime is more serious than the defendant articulated it to be, but I think it’s good that Durham prosecuted it, and I think this is more like the beginning than the end."
Clinesmith pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from Durham’s probe. He was accused of altering an email about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to say that he was “not a source” for another government agency. Page has said he was a source for the CIA.
The Justice Department relied on Clinesmith’s assertion when it submitted a third and final renewal application in 2017 to eavesdrop on Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
However, McCarthy questioned the decision by U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia James Boasberg to accept Clinesmith's plea, which he said provided insufficient intent on the defendant's part "to violate the law."
"I have a hard time with this because basically what he [Clinesmith] says in his allocution, which is where you explain to the judge what you did that makes you guilty, he said that he altered the document but he didn’t intend to deceive anyone," McCarthy explained. "And a false statement under federal law, it’s not enough that you know you are saying something that’s false, it has to be willful which means you have to have an intention to deceive, an intention to violate the law."
During the plea hearing, Clinesmith was asked to affirm that he "intentionally altered an email, and added language" that "individual number one" was "not a source … and you knew that statement was in fact not true."
Clinesmith replied, "At the time I thought the information I was providing was accurate, but I am agreeing the information I inserted was not originally there, and I inserted the information."
"What he is trying to do is, he wants to say he didn’t mean to deceive the court, and I think the story is preposterous," McCarthy said.
"But the only way that what he said makes sense is he wants to be able to say, 'Yeah, I gave the agent a tampered document, but I thought what was in it, which I knew he was going to relay to the court, was accurate. I’m sorry if I was wrong, but I didn’t mean to deceive anyone.'"
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.