(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Former FBI official Charles McGonigal, who was involved in the U.S. government’s sham investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia, will plead guilty to circumventing sanctions to secretly work for a Russian oligarch.
District Judge Jennifer Rearden announced McGonigal’s intentions in an order filed Monday.
“The Court has been informed that Defendant Charles McGonigal may wish to enter a change of plea [from not guilty to guilty],” she said. “Accordingly, on August 15, 2023, at 12:15 p.m., a plea proceeding will take place.”
McGonigal, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York from 2016 to 2018, was accused 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.”
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 Sergey Shestakov, 69, were 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. His not-guilty plea is still intact and he has a status conference scheduled for next month, according to the federal court docket.
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 said, though the work was ultimately interrupted by factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
After McGonigal’s indictment was unsealed in January, observers were quick to note that he 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.
“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.