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Prosecutors have scrutinized a former top official in the FBI who played a pivotal role in the bureau’s investigation of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign over his alleged ties to Russia and other foreign governments.
A grand jury assembled last year subpoenaed at least one person for information on former FBI special agent Charles McGonigal, who was appointed to run the counterintelligence division of the FBI field office in New York City in October of 2016. Prosecutors scrutinized McGonigal’s alleged dealings with a top aid to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, according to court documents obtained by Insider.
It is unknown whether the grand jury is still convened or whether it was investigating McGonigal or someone with whom he had dealings. The documents reviewed by Insider did not suggest McGonigal had broken any law.
The subpoena requested information on the former FBI official and the consulting firm Spectrum Risk Solutions. Soon after the subpoena was issued, former senior Soviet Foreign Ministry official Sergey Shestakov filed as a foreign agent for Yevgenyi Fokin, a top aid to Deripaska. Shestakov’s filing showed that McGonigal aided Shestakov in making connections between Fokin and Spectrum, and Fokin and the law firm Kobre & Kim.
“If McGonigal is mixed up in any way shape or form with Deripaska, that strikes me as unseemly, to put it politely,” Tim Weiner, who wrote “Enemies: A History of the FBI,” told Insider.
Prior to working as head of counterintelligence in New York, McGonigal served in the same position, but for the FBI Field Office in Washington, D.C. McGonigal was one of the first FBI officials to hear allegations that a Trump campaign official had told an Australian diplomat that the Russians had damaging information on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The allegations were later believed to be about the WikiLeaks hack of the Democratic National Committee, which released emails from the Clinton campaign as well.
Also while McGonigal was in D.C., the bureau began receiving briefings from former British spy Christopher Steele on reports he was drafting that would eventually become the discredited Steele Dossier. McGonigal was key in the launch of FBI operation Crossfire Hurricane into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. On October 4, 2016, the FBI announced that then-Director James Comey had promoted McGonigal to head the counterintelligence division in the New York City Field Office.
The investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia hounded the former president for years into his term, eventually ending in a report by special counsel Robert Mueller concluding that investigators found no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. An inspector general probe into surveillance applications made by the FBI during its investigation of the Trump campaign found that the applications contained “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts,” with many due to the salacious and unsupported details contained in the Steele Dossier.