Former Senior FBI Official Involved in Trump Probe Now Under Scrutiny for Russian Ties

Trump-Russia Collusion REUTERSStevo Vasiljevic
REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

A former senior FBI agent involved in the agency’s investigation into the Trump campaign based on phony allegations of collusion with Russia is now under apparent investigation himself by the Justice Department for his ties with Russia and other foreign governments, according to a report.

Business Insider reported Friday that late last year, U.S. attorneys convened a grand jury to examine the conduct of Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence at the New York City FBI field office. A witness subpoena obtained by the outlet indicated that the government was looking into McGonigal’s business dealings with a top aide to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was an associate of Paul Manafort, who served for several months as Trump’s campaign manager.

NBC News reported in January 2018 that the Russian tycoon had been repeatedly denied a visa to enter the United States over his alleged ties to organized crime.

The FBI raided Deripaska’s homes in D.C. and New York City in October 2021.

The subpoena was issued in November 2021 and requested records related to McGonigal and a consulting firm called Spectrum Risk Solutions. In a separate filing a week after the subpoena was issued, a Soviet-born immigrant named Sergey Shestakov said McGonigal had helped “facilitate” an introduction between a Deripaska aide and Spectrum. McGonigal also reportedly introduced the aide to a law firm specializing in advising clients investigated for “fraud and misconduct.”

Business Insider reported:

While it wouldn’t necessarily have been illegal for McGonigal to work on behalf of Deripaska, failing to disclose activities covered by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, such as lobbying and public relations, is punishable by a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Deripaska was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018 for acting as an agent for the Kremlin, and has been accused of ordering the murder of a businessman. ‘If McGonigal is mixed up in any way shape or form with Deripaska, that strikes me as unseemly, to put it politely,’ says Tim Weiner, the author of ‘Enemies: A History of the FBI.’

The outlet noted it is not clear whether McGonigal is the target of the grand-jury investigation, or if his behaviors are related to the target. But, Business Insider noted, “The materials requested in the witness subpoena raise questions about whether a top FBI agent may have been tapping the connections he made during his years of public service for private gain — an all-too-common practice among Washington insiders.”

Prosecutors are also allegedly looking into if McGonigal has ties to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and any “payments or gifts” he was provided by Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania. According to Business Insider, McGonigal had used his official FBI email account to try to arrange a meeting between Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania, and an American firm that he was thinking about hiring for an anti-corruption initiative. The FBI reportedly did not give McGonigal approval for the meeting and it never took place.

Despite McGonigal using his official FBI email, a representative for Rama told Business Insider that the relationship between McGonigal and Rama was a “totally private friendly relationship of no public interest.”

“We have no idea about any grand jury and no U.S. authority has ever contacted us about it. There have never been meetings with firms, gifts, payments, travel reimbursements before or after Mr. McGonigal left his job,” the representative said.

McGonigal was serving as chief of the cybercrimes section at the FBI headquarters in D.C. at the time that the Democratic National Committee was cyber hacked in the runup to the 2016 election. According to Business Insider, McGonigal was one of the first officials to “learn” that then-Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly bragged the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the FBI claims sparked Operation Crossfire Hurricane. Then-FBI Director James Comey promoted McGonigal to the FBI field office in New York City.

McGonigal was reportedly working at a multibillion-dollar real-estate company in New York up until January, as witnesses were scheduled to appear before the grand jury.

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