It turns out that one of the top FBI agents who investigated the alleged Trump Russia collusion may now be under investigation himself for…well, possible Russian collusion.
Follow me down this twisted rabbit hole. And bring a flashlight.
According to Business Insider, citing official court documents they say they've got, Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence at the FBI field office in New York City, was recently being investigated by a grand jury concerning his ties to a shady Russian billionaire - one of the same Russian billionaires, as it turns out, who was once at the center of the Trump-Russia narrative.
And who also happens to be a known agent of the Kremlin.
Business Insider reports that a subpoena was issued by a grand jury last November for records related to McGonigal’s alleged ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Reaching back in the memory bank a bit, he's the guy the Associated Press once accused of having a back-scratching relationship with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in which Manafort allegedly promised to promote Russian interests in U.S. media in exchange for $10 million (which both Manafort and Deripaska denied).
Business Insider notes that in addition to that subpoena, a separate witness filing states that McGonigal, before retiring from the FBI in 2018, helped facilitate a meeting between one of Deripaska’s top aides and a sketchy consulting firm called Spectrum Risk Solutions, as well as New York law firm Kobre & Kim, which specializes in representing clients who are being investigated on suspicion of "fraud and misconduct.”
The subpoena, issued in November, requests records relating to McGonigal and a shadowy consulting firm called Spectrum Risk Solutions. A week after the subpoena was issued, a Soviet-born immigrant named Sergey Shestakov said in a separate filing that McGonigal had helped him "facilitate" an introduction between Spectrum and Deripaska's aide. The filing also states that McGonigal helped introduce the aide to Kobre & Kim, a New York law firm that specializes in representing clients who are being investigated on suspicion of "fraud and misconduct." Shestakov, who has been identified on TV panels as a former Soviet foreign ministry official and former chief of staff to the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, reported receiving $33,000 for the referrals.
The report notes that while it wouldn’t have necessarily been illegal for McGonigal to make that connection, it may have been illegal for him not to disclose it per the Foreign Agents Registration Act, especially given that Deripaska is a known agent of the Kremlin (for which he was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018). Oh, and the fact that he once reportedly ordered a hit on a businessman.
Sounds like a swell guy.
Violations of the FARA carry a fine of up to $250,000 and a potential five-year prison stint.
To be fair, Business Insider was careful to note that McGonigal hasn’t so far been accused of any criminal acts, and that the subpoena doesn’t say whether he was the main subject of the grand jury investigation or simply a secondary character who got caught up in a probe into someone else. Nor, Insider points out, do the documents indicate that McGonigal did anything wrong as it pertains to his handling of the Trump Russia investigation.
But the fact that a top FBI agent who helped investigate a sitting president for possible collusion with Russia is now being looked into for possible collusion with Russia shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
The report does note, however, that such a high-level FBI agent being investigated in the first place is significant:
Whatever McGonigal's actions, the fact that he has been swept up in a grand-jury investigation is highly unusual. According to a former senior official at the Justice Department who asked not to be identified, prosecutors almost never consider charges against someone so high up in the FBI. "It's very rare that former FBI people at all, and certainly former senior FBI people, wind up as grand-jury targets," the official said.
And that’s not all. Insider adds that the subpoena also revealed the feds are looking into illicit ties McGonigal may've had to the governments of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania, including any kickbacks or ill-gotten payments he may have received from them.
McGonigal’s latest work information indicates that he was the senior vice president for security at a multibillion-dollar real estate company up until leaving that post in January. And, of course, he didn’t return Insider’s request for comment.