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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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Former Russiagate Investigator Charged over Ties to Russian Oligarch

'In that capacity, he was one of the first officials to learn that a Trump campaign official had bragged that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton... '

(Ken Silva, Headline USAFormer FBI official Charles McGonigal, who was involved in the U.S. government’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia, has been charged with secretly working for a Russian oligarch.

McGonigal, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York from 2016 to 2018, is accused in an indictment unsealed Monday of working with a former Soviet diplomat-turned-Russian interpreter on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire they purportedly referred to in code as “the big guy” and “the client,” reported the Associated Press.

McGonigal, who had supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, worked to have Deripaska’s sanctions lifted in 2019 and took money from him in 2021 to investigate a rival oligarch, the Justice Department said.

McGonigal, 54, and Russian interpreter Shestakov, 69, are charged with violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and conspiring to commit money laundering. Shestakov is also charged with making material misstatements to the FBI.

According to the DOJ, the U.S. Treasury Department added Deripaska to its sanctions list in 2018 for purported ties to the Russian government and Russia’s energy sector amid Russia’s ongoing threats to Ukraine.

That year, while McGonigal was still working for the FBI, Shestakov introduced him to a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who functioned as Deripaska’s agent, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Shestakov asked McGonigal for help getting the agent’s daughter an internship in the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism and intelligence units. McGonigal agreed, prosecutors say.

After retiring from the FBI, according to the indictment, McGonigal went to work in 2019 as a consultant and investigator for an international law firm seeking to reverse Deripaska’s sanctions, a process known as “delisting.” The law firm paid McGonigal $25,000 through a Shestakov-owned corporation, prosecutors say, though the work was ultimately interrupted by factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a bureau-wide email Monday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said McGonigal’s alleged conduct “is entirely inconsistent with what I see from the men and women of the FBI who demonstrate every day through their actions that they’re worthy of the public’s trust.”

After Monday’s indictment was unsealed, observers were quick to note that McGonigal was a top official who took part in the U.S. government’s investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016.

A September 2022 Business Insider article on McGonigal also noted that he led the WikiLeaks investigation into Chelsea Manning, busted Bill Clinton’s national security advisor Sandy Berger for removing classified material from a National Archives reading room and led the search for a Chinese mole inside the CIA.

“In 2016, when reports surfaced that Russia had hacked the email system of the Democratic National Committee, McGonigal was serving as chief of the cybercrimes section at FBI headquarters in Washington. In that capacity, he was one of the first officials to learn that a Trump campaign official had bragged that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, sparking the investigation known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane,” Business Insider reported. “Later that year, FBI Director James Comey promoted McGonigal to oversee counterintelligence operations in New York.”

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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