As RedState reported in January, former FBI Chief Charles McGonigal was indicted for money laundering, US sanctions violations, and false statements.
On Monday, the Washington Post ran an explainer of sorts regarding how McGonigal’s “side work” has placed the FBI under added scrutiny, and providing additional background on McGonigal’s questionable activities:
In January, McGonigal was indicted on federal charges of money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions and making false statements, stemming in part from his alleged interventions on Fokina’s behalf. McGonigal has pleaded not guilty to the charges in New York and Washington and is free on bond. He is one of the most senior FBI officials ever charged with criminal offenses, and his case has deeply concerned national security professionals, given the extraordinary access he had to sensitive government secrets.
A 22-year member of the bureau, McGonigal was the top spy hunter in a city crawling with foreign agents and one of the most powerful officials in federal law enforcement. Earlier in 2018, a Russian associate allegedly asked McGonigal to help secure an internship at the New York Police Department for Fokina on behalf of her father, Yevgeny Fokin. Prosecutors noted that Fokin had been “rumored in public media reports to be a Russian intelligence officer.” According to the Justice Department, McGonigal called a contact in the police department, telling him, “I have an interest in [Fokina’s] father for a number of reasons.”
It was McGonigal’s job to recruit people like Fokin. But his help securing the job for Fokin’s daughter apparently raised suspicions at the NYPD. A sergeant there who had been assigned to brief Fokina later reported to the police and the FBI that Fokina “claimed to have an unusually close relationship to ‘an FBI agent’ who had given her access to confidential FBI files,” prosecutors allege. “It was unusual for a college student to receive such special treatment from the NYPD and the FBI,” the sergeant explained, according to the indictment.
WaPo goes on to note that news of McGonigal’s arrest and indictment has prompted additional questions from those “at both ends of the political spectrum.”
Since McGonigal’s arrest, partisans at both ends of the political spectrum have seized on his case as evidence of their preexisting views of the FBI. For some, the McGonigal affair confirms that the bureau is the vanguard of a corrupt deep state, a renegade agency that former president Donald Trump for years has said was out to get him. Others see in McGonigal dark suggestions of Russian influence at the highest levels of the U.S. government or even a possible tool used by forces in the FBI to help elect Trump in 2016.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have demanded more information on McGonigal from the FBI. GOP critics ask whether he improperly played a role in the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Russia’s election interference. And Democrats have wondered whether he inappropriately sought to quash the inquiry. McGonigal’s precise role in the investigation remains murky.
Interestingly, right on the heels of the WaPo piece, Business Insider published a report, on Thursday, revealing that British intelligence actually caught McGonigal meeting with a Russian contact who they had under surveillance, which is, at least in part, what set in motion the investigation into McGonigal. Per the report:
In 2018, Charles McGonigal, the FBI’s former New York spy chief, traveled to London where he met with a Russian contact who was under surveillance by British authorities, two US intelligence sources told Insider.
The British were alarmed enough by the meeting to alert the FBI’s legal attach?, who was stationed at the US Embassy. The FBI then used the surreptitious meeting as part of their basis to open an investigation into McGonigal, one of the two sources said.
While the Insider notes that the sources did not identify the Russian with whom McGonigal met, they do note the criminal accusations against him include his dealings with Oleg Deripaska (there’s that name again!)
McGonigal, the former head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York, stands accused of taking money from Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch, in violation of US sanctions, in exchange for investigating one of Deripaska’s Russian rivals. McGonigal “traveled to meet Deripaska and others at Deripaska’s residence in London, and in Vienna,” according to one of the federal indictments lodged last month. The indictments do not say precisely when those alleged meetings took place, or how prosecutors came to believe they occurred.
The Insider was able to confirm the year of the reported meeting as 2018, but not the month — and whether the meeting was with Deripaska himself, or with Fokin, who (according to WaPo’s reporting and connecting the dots in the indictment) worked for Deripaska.
As noted by the Insider, it was precisely McGonigal’s role and experience that make this particular London meeting so puzzling:
During his years in New York, McGonigal oversaw 150 FBI agents tasked with shadowing foreign operatives and turning them into spies for the US. He would have had intimate knowledge of surveillance penetration in world capitals, which makes the London meeting all the more mystifying.
“What the fuck was he thinking?” said a fourth source, who said they had reason to believe that the meeting “apparently did occur,” but declined to confirm it. Years of experience running counterintelligence, the fourth source said, should have clued in McGonigal to the possibility that the London encounter would attract notice.