FBI Agent Under Investigation for Withholding Exculpatory Information in Trump–Russia Probe

By John Haughey
John Haughey
John Haughey
John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.
and Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
May 26, 2022 Updated: May 26, 2022

WASHINGTON—The FBI is probing the alleged withholding of exculpatory information during the series of investigations into Donald Trump and his campaign known collectively as Crossfire Hurricane, it was revealed in federal court.

Agent Curtis Heide said on the stand on May 24, during trial testimony, that he’s being investigated as part of an internal FBI inquiry into Crossfire Hurricane for not including exculpatory information, or information that negates an allegation or allegations, in an application to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

He described the information as “various consensual recordings.”

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign associate who was spied on by an FBI confidential source before the 2016 election, during an appearance on Fox News called the disclosure of the FBI probe an “incredible twist.”

“Did the FBI willfully take information that they knew was tainted to obtain these fraudulent warrants, or were they duped?” he asked.

The FBI received permission from the court just weeks before the 2016 election to spy on Carter Page, another Trump campaign associate. The bureau also received three renewals, which enabled it to keep spying on Page for months.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, an Obama appointee, investigated the four applications and found they were riddled with errors and omissions. That included citing portions of the discredited dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele despite not having verified the portions that were cited, and omitting that Page had worked as a CIA asset, which would have been exculpatory.

Kevin Clinesmith, an FBI lawyer who worked on Crossfire Hurricane, was the first person charged by special counsel John Durham. Clinesmith admitted to doctoring an email from the CIA to change it from saying Page had been an asset to saying he hadn’t been. Clinesmith received no jail time.

Durham has since brought charges against two others, including former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann. Heide was testifying during the trial of Sussmann, who was charged with lying to the FBI when he said he was bringing claims about Trump and Russia to the bureau on his own accord but later acknowledged he was doing so on behalf of a client.

“That is a serious allegation, that you intentionally withheld information that could help prove an individual’s innocence,” Sean Berkowitz, a lawyer for Sussmann, told Heide at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse.

Heide denied under oath that he intentionally withheld exculpatory information from the surveillance court.

A more recent audit uncovered widespread problems with the FBI’s applications to the court, including the identification of 183 applications that had a missing or incomplete Woods file, a document meant to ensure the accuracy of statements.

The FBI, which doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations, stated after that audit was released that it has already made “significant changes” to how the applications are handled in light of the issues uncovered by Horowitz’s office.

John Haughey
John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.