Former high-ranking FBI official Charles McGonigal pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and to laundering money by secretly working on behalf of a Russian oligarch he had been tasked with investigating.
The former chief of counterintelligence in the FBI’s New York City office, who was charged in January, settled his New York case with federal prosecutors by pleading guilty to one count in a superseding document used to override or avoid a criminal indictment and streamline plea agreements. He faces up to five years in prison and is to be sentenced Dec. 14.
McGonigal, 55, still has pending federal charges in Washington for allegedly taking $225,000 in bribes while working for the bureau on sensitive investigations.
McGonigal’s involvement with the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska that is covered by his guilty plea took place over several months in 2021, three years after his 2018 retirement from the FBI, according to prosecutors.
In a statement Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Jennifer H. Rearden, McGonigal said he knew his investigative work benefited Deripaska and was illegal because he was being paid with money that originated in Cyprus and was filtered through local shell companies. His involvement with Deripaska included participation in a plan to try to get Deripaska removed from the U.S. sanctions list, a status that prevents the Russian from doing business with U.S. banks and entities.....
He admitted to receiving $17,500 from Deripaska, who was added to the U.S. government’s sanctions list in 2018 on suspicion that he committed several illegal acts including extortion and racketeering. Deripaska gained renewed international significance last year because of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the U.S. government’s strong opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Dell said McGonigal was in negotiations to find what was expected to be $500 million of hidden assets belonging to a Deripaska rival in exchange for a payment of up to $3 million.
McGonigal was arrested in January on charges stemming from efforts to get Deripaska removed from the U.S. sanctions list. At the FBI, McGonigal was assigned to investigate Deripaska, who is a known ally of Putin’s and is under federal indictment in Manhattan on allegations of evading sanctions.
"Russia, Russia, Russia," the sarcastic refrain goes. The right-wing, including Republicans the center-left media considers "moderates," continues (against all evidence) to refer to the "Russia hoax." With a little effort, the media would notice, as did political author Craig Unger, who after McGonigal's arrest noted that the accused was a close colleague of
the late James Kallstrom, who ran the FBI’s New York office in the mid-’90s and oversaw successful investigations into both the Italian Mafia and later the Russian mob. Kallstrom had developed close friendships with two key players in the Trump-Russia saga. He worked closely with then–U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Rudy Giuliani in the investigation of the Cosa Nostra network that led to the famed Mafia Commission Trial of 1985–1986. Going even further back, Kallstrom had also been friends with Donald Trump since around 1973, when Kallstrom was putting together a Trump-funded parade in New York to honor Vietnam veterans.
In a 2020 interview, Kallstrom had remarked
I went to a few dinners with him, we talked quite often. He was very, very supportive of the bureau. We lose an agent, or somebody gets shot up, he was always there to pay for the food or whatever it took.
Of course, he was, because Trump knew it would pay dividends. And so
Trump being Trump, loyalty and generosity came with strings attached. “He [Trump] cultivated FBI people,” says Jeff Stein, editor of the intelligence newsletter SpyTalk, in An American Affair. “And that’s well-known behavior by people who swim in dangerous waters. They want to have a get-out-of-jail card, and that get-out-of-jail is having friendships or being a good source for the FBI"....
Trump appears to have gotten exactly what he sought. As it happens, Kallstrom worked closely with McGonigal and cultivated friendships not just with Trump but also with Rudy Giuliani. Together, they are suspected of being party to an internal campaign just before the 2016 election that spurred FBI Director James Comey to publicly announce he was reopening his investigation into Clinton’s emails.
Ultimately, of course, America found out that none of Hillary’s emails were classified. The Times story on the subject was misleading at best. The “reopened” investigation was short-lived and appeared to reflect the wishful thinking of the pro-Trump leaker in the bureau, whether it was McGonigal or someone else. Likewise, the Times headline declaring “no link” between Trump and Russia seemed to reflect wishful thinking on the parts of Kallstrom, Giuliani, and McGonigal—not reality.
It therefore should be clear that FBI director James Comey was the most consequential American, perhaps the most consequential individual, of 2016. Whether it was Kallstrom, Giuliani, or McGonigal, someone pushed Comey into announcing shortly before the election the discovery of emails which already had been reviewed, thus turning the presidential election.
That was seven years ago. However, the ramifications still are being felt as Republicans, discomfited by charges against hero Donald J. Trump, continue attack the FBI even as
“The FBI for many decades – almost a century – has been sort of the chief secret police entity against the left and progressives,” said Vince Warren, executive director of the progressive Center for Constitutional Rights. “During that time, the right wing and Republicans have been the biggest cheerleaders of this illegal activity when aimed at communists, civil rights advocates, anti-war advocates, all the way up to [Black Lives Matter] protesters. That seemed to change in 2016, when they backed a lawless president who didn’t like that his illegal activities were being investigated.”
With the FBI and federal law enforcement generally placed on the defensive by a GOP which will attack anyone and anything which dares to question the ex-President, the FBI is consistently defended, even lauded, by Democrats and anti-Trump hosts and guests on MSNBC and CNN.
McGonigal was a big deal in the FBI's New York office, which worked closely with Giuliani, then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He violated U.S. sanctions against Russia nd participated in a money laundering scheme with a prominent Russian plutocrat associated with Vladimir Putin, who in turn engaged in a scheme aimed at defeating Hillary Clinton.
Rather than thoroughly reporting conclusion of the case against McGonigal, the media outlets ostensibly- allegedly- hostile to Donald Trump are virtually ignoring the story. Instead of questioning the connection between the FBI and the Republican Party, they prominently feature guests who were formerly employed by the agency and/or were U.S. Attorneys, none of whom questions the investigative agency. Most liberals play along, enthusiastically or otherwise defending an organization currently led by a Republican (and never by a Democrat), whose membership always has been GOP-friendly, and probably was the determining factor in defeating their party's 2016 presidential nominee.
Playing out in front of us are two things: an extraordinarily successful instance of gaslighting by the Republican Party of the Democratic Party; and disgraceful conduct by broadcast media all too willing to ignore news stories which would require a little effort to report.