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Ex-FBI Official Who Helped Launch Crossfire Hurricane Charged With Laundry List Of Crimes


BY: MARGOT CLEVELAND | JANUARY 24, 2023

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2023/01/24/ex-fbi-official-who-helped-launch-crossfire-hurricane-charged-with-laundry-list-of-crimes/

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Monday’s news is a body blow to the FBI, which already has two black eyes from the last seven years of scandals.

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The Department of Justice unsealed twin indictments on Monday against Charles McGonigal, a former FBI section chief involved in the decision to launch the Crossfire Hurricane investigation against then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Here are six takeaways from yesterday’s news.

1. McGonigal Charged with Conspiring with Russian Interpreter to Launder Money — and More.

Monday morning brought breaking news that the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had unsealed a five-count indictment that charged McGonigal and Sergey Shestakov with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, or IEEPA, and with conspiring to launder money. Prosecutors also charged Shestakov with lying to the FBI. 

McGonigal, as the indictment explained, was previously a “senior official” in the FBI, having been employed by the bureau from 1996 to 2018, and working in Russian counterintelligence, organized crime matters, and counter-espionage. From 2016 until his retirement in 2018, McGonigal was the special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division of the FBI’s New York Field Office, a role in which he supervised and investigated Russian oligarchs, according to the indictment.

Shestakov, for his part, is described as a “former Soviet and Russian diplomat,” who was in that role from 1979 until his retirement in 1993. The press release announcing the charges notes that Shestakov is now a U.S. citizen, and he has “more recently served as an interpreter for United States federal courts and prosecutors.”

The indictment charged that McGonigal and Shestakov violated the sanctions imposed by the United States on Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch, in violation of the IEEPA. Specifically, the indictment alleged the duo, in or about 2021, “agreed to and did investigate a rival oligarch of Deripaska in return for concealed payment from Deripaska.” 

According to Monday’s press release, McGonigal and Shestakov negotiated with a representative of Deripaska, identified as Agent-1 in the indictment, “to conceal Deripaska’s involvement” in the relationship “by, among other means, not directly naming Deripaska in electronic communications,” using instead various nicknames, such as “the big guy.” McGonigal, Shestakov, and Deripaska also allegedly used “shell companies,” to hide the payments coming from Deripaska.

McGonigal allegedly first met Deripaska’s representative, Agent-1, while still employed by the FBI, but then in the spring of 2021, after McGonigal had retired from the bureau, he was allegedly solicited to work directly for Deripaska. Specifically, the indictment charged that Deripaska hired McGonigal to investigate a second Russian oligarch with whom Deripaska had an ongoing dispute over control of a Russian corporation. In exchange, Deripaska allegedly agreed to pay the partners $51,280, followed by monthly payments of $41,790, although the payments were made to a New Jersey corporation, which then transferred the funds to McGonigal and Shestakov. 

The activities among McGonigal, Shestakov, and Deripaska’s intermediaries “largely” ceased, according to the indictment, upon the FBI executing search warrants and seizing McGonigal and Shestakov’s electronic devices on Nov. 21, 2021. Shortly before the FBI executed the search warrant, Shestakov allegedly lied to the FBI about his relationship with McGonigal, which formed the basis of the false statement charge against Shestakov.

2. McGonigal Is in More McTrouble

If the indictment in the Southern District of New York were not enough to shake McGonigal’s world, an hour later the Department of Justice released a second press release announcing the unsealing of a second indictment in the District of Columbia. This indictment charged McGonigal with making multiple false statements, concealing material facts, and falsifying records or documents — nine counts in total.

Underlying the nine criminal counts were allegations that McGonigal failed to accurately complete financial disclosure reports, which McGonigal was required to do on an annual basis, and failed to accurately report unofficial foreign travel and ongoing professional or official contracts with foreign nationals. 

The accusations are related to McGonigal’s alleged failure to accurately report his financial situation, connections with foreign nationals, and his relationship with several unnamed individuals. Those individuals are identified as Persons A, B, C, and D, with McGonigal receiving large cash payments in exchange for what appear to be questionable “favors.”

For instance, the indictment described Person A as a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Albania and who had previously worked for the Albanian intelligence agency. It then alleged McGonigal “hid aspects of his relationship with Person A,” including “that he had accepted more than $225,000 from Person A, had traveled to Europe with Person A, and met numerous foreign nationals through Person A.” 

It was McGonigal, according to the indictment, who approached Person A with the money-making scheme, when “no later than August, 2017,” he “inquired as to whether Person A could provide money to him.” Then on Sept. 7, 2017, Person A allegedly indicated he “was working on the money.” Thereafter, McGonigal traveled with Person A to Albania where he allegedly lobbied the Albanian prime minister on behalf of Person A. 

Over the next several months, McGonigal allegedly received three cash payments from Person A, ranging from approximately $65,000 to $80,000 each time. The indictment further charged that “McGonigal caused the FBI-NY to open a criminal investigation of a U.S. citizen in which Person A would serve as a confidential human source.” 

Specifically, on Nov. 25, 2017, McGonigal allegedly informed a federal prosecutor of “a potential new criminal investigation involving a U.S. citizen who had registered to perform lobbying work in the United States on behalf of an Albanian political party different from the one in which the Prime Minister was a member.” Then on Feb. 26, 2018, the FBI office “formally opened a criminal investigation focused on the ‘U.S. citizen lobbyist’ at defendant McGonigal’s request and upon his guidance.” 

The indictment suggests McGonigal opened the investigation into “the U.S. citizen lobbyist” to further his monetary relationship with Person A and others, with the allegations stressing that McGonigal remained in communication with the prime minister after Person A arranged for them to meet in September of 2017. Person A and Person B, the latter identified in the indictment as a former senior Albanian government official and informal adviser to the Albanian prime minister, both then assisted the FBI in the investigation of “the U.S. citizen lobbyist.” 

Elsewhere, the indictment charged that McGonigal attempted to arrange a meeting with Persons C and D and U.S. government authorities to benefit from the unnamed Person A. Among other things, the indictment claimed that McGonigal proposed Person D pay Person A’s company $500,000 in exchange for the scheduling of a meeting with a representative from the U.S. delegation to the United Nations. McGonigal then worked to coordinate the meeting, according to the charges.

3. The Shockwaves of This Latest FBI Scandal Hit Spygate

The two indictments alone represent another huge scandal to the FBI: McGonigal was no low-level agent but rather a special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office. And although McGonigal retired in 2018, some of his allegedly criminal conduct took place while still in that position and allegedly involved the launching of an investigation of a U.S. citizen who was lobbying for a political opponent of one of McGonigal’s foreign contacts.

In isolation, yesterday’s news is a body blow to the bureau, which already has two black eyes from the last seven years of scandals. But the New York indictment of McGonigal reverberates more directly to the SpyGate scandal and specifically the failure of the DOJ to pursue Christopher Steele for his own work for Deripaska.

The inspector general’s report on FISA abuse concluded that “Steele performed work for Russian Oligarch 1’s attorney on Russian Oligarch 1’s litigation matters,” with Deripaska the generically named “Oligarch 1.” Steele, the OIG report continued, “passed information to Department attorney Bruce Ohr advocating on behalf of one of Russian Oligarch 1’s companies regarding U.S. sanctions.” The report further found that Ohr and Steele’s communications concerning Deripaska occurred “in 2016 during the time period before and after Steele was terminated as a [confidential human source].”

Additionally, the OIG report connected that “Ohr said that he understood Steele was ‘angling’ for Ohr to assist him with his clients’ issues,” and that “Ohr stated that Steele was hoping that Ohr would intercede on his behalf with the Department attorney handling a matter involving a European company.”

Steele had reportedly also previously worked for Deripaska’s London-based attorney Paul Hauser, and Steele “appeared to lobby on behalf of Deripaska through a D.C.-based attorney, Adam Waldman.” Steele, however, never registered as a lobbyist under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or “FARA.”

Yet Steele has never been charged with violating FARA. Why?

While this question has been asked again and again, the federal charges against McGonigal for his work on Deripaska’s behalf bring this question to the forefront again. 

4. Speaking of Deripaska, There’s Another SpyGate Scandal Unresolved

The raising of Deripaska’s name in yesterday’s indictment also offers the chance to revisit another SpyGate scandal yet unresolved — a lesser noticed one buried in the hundreds of pages of the inspector general’s report on FISA abuse.

As I previously detailed, the IG report noted that on Dec. 7, 2016, Bruce Ohr called an interagency meeting to discuss Deripaska. During that meeting, Ohr apparently suggested trying to work with Deripaska, and later told a subordinate that the basis for the suggestion was that “Steele provided information that the Trump campaign had been corrupted by the Russians,” and that the corruption went all the way to President-elect Trump. So Ohr apparently suggested cutting a deal with a Russian oligarch based on the fake Steele dossier. 

It also appears that agents considered cutting a deal with Deripaska to possibly ensnare Paul Manafort, with the end goal being to take down Trump — another startling possibility that would reveal our FBI viewing Trump as worse than the Russian oligarch.

To date, little has been explored of possible efforts by the DOJ or FBI to go easy on Deripaska for the great goal of getting Trump. But maybe the renewed focus on Deripaska will resurrect these overlooked details.

5. McGonigal’s Role in Crossfire Hurricane Raises Huge Red Flags

The charges against McGonigal also raise concerns about his role in the decision to launch Crossfire Hurricane. 

In his congressional testimony, FBI Agent Jonathan Moffa testified that from July 28 to July 31 of 2016, officials in FBI headquarters discussed whether to open a counterintelligence investigation on Trump, purportedly based on information provided by a “friendly foreign government.” That information consisted of an Australian diplomat telling his American counterpart that Trump’s volunteer campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had suggested the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. In explaining how he had learned of the discussions over whether to open the investigation that became known as Crossfire Hurricane, Moffa testified he had received an email from McGonigal, the then-section chief in FBI headquarters, that contained the reporting from the friendly foreign government. 

After McGonigal helped decide to launch the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Trump campaign, FBI Director James Comey named him “the special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office” in October of 2016. In that position, McGonigal stayed engaged in aspects of the investigation, with his “team” questioning Carter Page in March of 2017. McGonigal would later also express concerns about the Page FISA leaking after a briefing to the House Intel Committee, and sure enough, a few weeks later the story leaked.

Given that if the allegations in the indictments are true, McGonigal has proven himself willing to be bought, his involvement in Crossfire Hurricane is extremely troubling. 

6. A New Life for Durham

While McGonigal’s involvement in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation raises serious concerns, it also provides one final chance to learn the depth of the SpyGate scandal. With McGonigal facing serious federal criminal charges in two different districts, the incentive for him to seek a deal with the government is high. Given his involvement in the decision to launch Crossfire Hurricane and his later involvement in at least portions of the investigation, he may just have something to offer Special Counsel John Durham.

And McGonigal may have just the attorney to cut that deal: Seth DuCharme. DuCharme is listed as McGonigal’s attorney of record in court filings, and emails released pursuant to FOIA requests show DuCharme previously worked for Durham.

Whether McGonigal has anything of value to Durham, however, remains to be seen.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

Mueller may have a conflict — and it leads directly to a Russian oligarch


Special counsel Robert Mueller has withstood relentless political attacks, many distorting his record of distinguished government service. But there’s one episode even Mueller’s former law enforcement comrades — and independent ethicists — acknowledge raises legitimate legal issues and a possible conflict of interest in his overseeing the Russia election probe.

In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.

Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.

The Levinson mission is confirmed by more than a dozen participants inside and outside the FBI, including Deripaska, his lawyer, the Levinson family and a retired agent who supervised the case. Mueller was kept apprised of the operation, officials told me.

Some aspects of Deripaska’s help were chronicled in a 2016 book by reporter Barry Meier, but sources provide extensive new information about his role. They said FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland.

“We knew he was paying for his team helping us, and that probably ran into the millions,” a U.S. official involved in the operation confirmed.

One agent who helped court Deripaska was Andrew McCabe, the recently fired FBI deputy director who played a seminal role starting the Trump-Russia case, multiple sources confirmed.

Deripaska’s lawyer said the Russian ultimately spent $25 million assembling a private search and rescue team that worked with Iranian contacts under the FBI’s watchful eye. Photos and videos indicating Levinson was alive were uncovered.

Then in fall 2010, the operation secured an offer to free Levinson. The deal was scuttled, however, when the State Department become uncomfortable with Iran’s terms, according to Deripaska’s lawyer and the Levinson family.

FBI officials confirmed State hampered their efforts.

“We tried to turn over every stone we could to rescue Bob, but every time we started to get close, the State Department seemed to always get in the way,” said Robyn Gritz, the retired agent who supervised the Levinson case in 2009, when Deripaska first cooperated, but who left for another position in 2010 before the Iranian offer arrived. “I kept Director Mueller and Deputy Director [John] Pistole informed of the various efforts and operations, and they offered to intervene with State, if necessary.”

FBI officials ended the operation in 2011, concerned that Deripaska’s Iranian contacts couldn’t deliver with all the U.S. infighting. Levinson was never found; his whereabouts remain a mystery, 11 years after he disappeared.

“Deripaska’s efforts came very close to success,” said David McGee, a former federal prosecutor who represents Levinson’s family. “We were told at one point that the terms of Levinson’s release had been agreed to by Iran and the U.S. and included a statement by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointing a finger away from Iran. At the last minute, Secretary Clinton decided not to make the agreed-on statement.”

The State Department declined comment, and a spokesman for Clinton did not offer comment. Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to answer questions. As did McCabe.

The FBI had three reasons for choosing Deripaska for a mission worthy of a spy novel.

  • First, his aluminum empire had business in Iran.
  • Second, the FBI wanted a foreigner to fund the operation because spending money in Iran might violate U.S. sanctions and other laws.
  • Third, agents knew Deripaska had been banished since 2006 from the United States by State over reports he had ties to organized crime and other nefarious activities. He denies the allegations, and nothing was ever proven in court.like i said

The FBI rewarded Deripaska for his help. In fall 2009, according to U.S. entry records, Deripaska visited Washington on a rare law enforcement parole visa. And since 2011, he has been granted entry at least eight times on a diplomatic passport, even though he doesn’t work for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Former FBI officials confirm they arranged the access.

Deripaska said in a statement through Adam Waldman, his American lawyer, that FBI agents told him State’s reasons for blocking his U.S. visa were “merely a pretext.”

“The FBI said they had undertaken a careful background check, and if there was any validity to the State Department smears, they would not have reached out to me for assistance,” the Russian said.

Then, over the past two years, evidence emerged tying him to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the first defendant charged by Mueller’s Russia probe with money laundering and illegal lobbying. Deripaska once hired Manafort as a political adviser and invested money with him in a business venture that went bad. Deripaska sued Manafort, alleging he stole money.

Mueller’s indictment of Manafort makes no mention of Deripaska, even though prosecutors have evidence that Manafort contemplated inviting his old Russian client for a 2016 Trump campaign briefing. Deripaska said he never got the invite and investigators have found no evidence it occurred. There’s no public evidence Deripaska had anything to do with election meddling.

Deripaska also appears to be one of the first Russians the FBI asked for help when it began investigating the now-infamous Fusion GPS “Steele Dossier.” Waldman, his American lawyer until the sanctions hit, gave me a detailed account, some of which U.S. officials confirm separately.

Two months before Trump was elected president, Deripaska was in New York as part of Russia’s United Nations delegation when three FBI agents awakened him in his home; at least one agent had worked with Deripaska on the aborted effort to rescue Levinson. During an hour-long visit, the agents posited a theory that Trump’s campaign was secretly colluding with Russia to hijack the U.S. election.

“Deripaska laughed but realized, despite the joviality, that they were serious,” the lawyer said. “So he told them in his informed opinion the idea they were proposing was false. ‘You are trying to create something out of nothing,’ he told them.” The agents left though the FBI sought more information in 2017 from the Russian, sources tell me. Waldman declined to say if Deripaska has been in contact with the FBI since Sept, 2016.

So why care about some banished Russian oligarch’s account now?

Two reasons.

  • First, as the FBI prepared to get authority to surveil figures on Trump’s campaign team, did it disclose to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that one of its past Russian sources waived them off the notion of Trump-Russia collusion? 
  • Second, the U.S. government in April imposed sanctions on Deripaska, one of several prominent Russians targeted to punish Vladimir Putin — using the same sort of allegations that State used from 2006 to 2009. Yet, between those two episodes, Deripaska seemed good enough for the FBI to ask him to fund that multimillion-dollar rescue mission. And to seek his help on a sensitive political investigation. And to allow him into the country eight times.

I was alerted to Deripaska’s past FBI relationship by U.S. officials who wondered whether the Russian’s conspicuous absence from Mueller’s indictments might be related to his FBI work.

They aren’t the only ones.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told me he believes Mueller has a conflict of interest because his FBI previously accepted financial help from a Russian that is, at the very least, a witness in the current probe.

“The real question becomes whether it was proper to leave [Deripaska] out of the Manafort indictment, and whether that omission was to avoid the kind of transparency that is really required by the law,” Dershowitz said.

Melanie Sloan, a former Clinton Justice Department lawyer and longtime ethics watchdog, told me a “far more significant issue” is whether the earlier FBI operation was even legal: “It’s possible the bureau’s arrangement with Mr. Deripaska violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits the government from accepting voluntary services.”  

George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley agreed: “If the operation with Deripaska contravened federal law, this figure could be viewed as a potential embarrassment for Mueller. The question is whether he could implicate Mueller in an impropriety.”

Now that sources have unmasked the Deripaska story, time will tell whether the courts, Justice, Congress or a defendant formally questions if Mueller is conflicted. In the meantime, the episode highlights an oft-forgotten truism: The cat-and-mouse maneuvers between Moscow and Washington are often portrayed in black-and-white terms. But the truth is, the relationship is enveloped in many shades of gray.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

[Editor’s note: This post was updated at 8:10 p.m. on May 14, 2018.]

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Bombshell Report: Collusion Investigation Now In Jeopardy – This Is It!


URL of the original posting site: https://steadfastandloyal.com/unreal/bombshell-report-collusion-investigation-is-now-in-jeopardy-this-is-it/

As we previously reported to you that, a report is coming out tomorrow that Russian oligarch’s connections to the Hillary dossier were coming out. 

It has been speculated for a while that Oligarch Oleg Deripaska could have been a source for the dossier, but tonight John Solomon, a reporter for the Hill dropped a bomb on Fox News when he revealed that three FBI agents who worked with Deripaska on the Levinson case approached him about the Hillary dossier. Deripaska just laughed at them and said it was ridiculous. Even more troubling is this happened two months before the election and before the FISA warrant application was filed.

From The Gateway Pundit

Then John Solomon dropped another bombshell while speaking with Fox News host Laura Ingraham Monday night…

FBI agents knocked on Oleg Deripaska’s door just weeks before the 2016 election to pitch the ‘Trump-Russia collusion’ narrative to him and he wasn’t buying it!

“Two months before the election he’s [Deripaska] asleep in his apartment in New York and he gets a knock on the door by some of the same FBI agents who worked with him on the earlier operation and they said, ‘we think Trump’s campaign and Russia are colluding on the election’ and he let out a big laugh,” John Solomon said to Laura Ingraham.

That’s right–the same FBI agents who brought Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to the US pitched him on the idea that Trump colluded with the Russians. (Remember, Andy Mccabe was one of the FBI agents said to have met with Deripaska)

John Solomon further explains that Oleg Deripaska and Paul Manafort previously had a falling out, therefore, became enemies.

Deripaska hates Paul Manafort and he still told FBI agents their Russian collusion theory is “preposterous.”

 

From The Hill: In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.

Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.

The Levinson mission is confirmed by more than a dozen participants inside and outside the FBI, including Deripaska, his lawyer, the Levinson family and a retired agent who supervised the case. Mueller was kept apprised of the operation, officials told me.

Some aspects of Deripaska’s help were chronicled in a 2016 book by reporter Barry Meier, but sources provide extensive new information about his role. 

They said FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland.

“We knew he was paying for his team helping us, and that probably ran into the millions,” a U.S. official involved in the operation confirmed.

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