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Disgraced FBI agent had ties to 2016 Trump-Russia probe, Clinton defensive briefing, memos show

The former FBI agent was involved in investigation elements of the debunked Trump-Russia collusion claim before eventually being charged with working with a notorious Russian oligarch.

Published: August 9, 2023 12:04am

Updated: August 9, 2023 4:40pm

Former FBI agent Charles McGonigal, who is charged with violating U.S. sanctions by working with a Russian oligarch, was tied to the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, as well as a separate defensive briefing given to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. 

McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI New York field office, was indicted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in January on five counts related to services he allegedly provided to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The five counts include violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and conspiring to commit money laundering. The former FBI agent had investigated Deripaska over the since-debunked allegations that the Trump 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.

A court filing submitted on Monday said that “McGonigal may wish to enter a change of plea."

McGonigal previously pleaded not guilty to the five charges as well as the federal charges brought against him by the U.S. Attorney for D.C. for allegedly concealing $225,000 in cash from a person who worked for the Albanian intelligence service.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee opened an investigation into McGonigal in February.

McGonigal had some involvement in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation and the FBI's interactions with the Clinton campaign.

According to an FBI document dated Oct. 22, 2015, McGonigal was copied on a defensive briefing for Clinton.

The document details a defensive briefing that Clinton’s attorneys, David E. Kendall and Katherine Turner, received a week earlier regarding an attempt to influence the then-Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign.

The FBI told the attorneys that there were attempts to influence Clinton’s campaign “through lobbying efforts and campaign contributions,” according to the document.

The attorneys “were advised the FBI was providing them with this briefing for awareness and so Ms. Clinton could take appropriate action to protect herself,” the document later added. The lawyers were also “asked to advise the FBI … if Ms. Clinton is approached by anyone connected to or acting at the direction of the [redacted].” 

In Special Counsel John Durham's report, he noted, “FBI Headquarters and Department [of Justice] officials required defensive briefings to be provided to Clinton and other officials or candidates who appeared to be the targets of foreign interference.”

Trump was eventually targeted in the Russian collusion investigation.

“Within days after opening Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI opened full investigations on four members of the Trump campaign team: George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn,” Durham wrote.

“No defensive briefing was provided to Trump or anyone in the campaign concerning the information received from Australia that suggested there might be some type of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians either prior to or after these investigations were opened" the special counsel added. "Instead," said Durham, "the FBI began working on requests for the use of FISA authorities against Page and Papadopoulos.”

McGonigal also provided some of the initial information that led to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

In July 2016, according to a Rolling Stone report, McGonigal received an email regarding Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. The email mentioned that Papadopoulos had told an Australian diplomat that the Russians had damaging information on Clinton.

McGonigal forwarded the email to other agents who opened the investigation that became Crossfire Hurricane. FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jonathan Moffa told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2020 that he received the email from McGonigal.

Besides the initial email, McGonigal was read into the Page investigation, but was apparently not otherwise involved.

McGonigal's attorney, Seth DuCharme, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Regarding the case in D.C. federal court, DuCharme told the judge overseeing those charges last week at a hearing that there was a "decent chance the case is going to be resolved" without a trial, but it will be more clear after Labor Day, according to CNN

The FBI declined to comment on Wednesday.

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