A former FBI official involved in the investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia was charged Monday for violating sanctions on behalf of a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the U.S. government.
Charles McGonigal, who led the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York, is accused of violating U.S. sanctions on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate with close ties to Vladimir Putin. According to prosecutors, McGonigal and a former Russian diplomat conspired to have sanctions removed from Deripaska in 2021. They also investigated another Russian oligarch "in return for concealed payments" from Deripaska. Their effort was unsuccessful as Deripaska remains under sanctions. McGonigal, who was arrested on Monday, allegedly received $225,000 from a former Russian intelligence officer while he was still employed by the FBI.
The indictment marks a surprising twist given McGonigal’s involvement with the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. As a top counterintelligence official, McGonigal was one of the first individuals at the FBI to learn that a Trump campaign adviser had discussed Hillary Clinton’s emails with a foreign diplomat. The FBI opened its investigation of the Trump campaign based on that conversation, but later found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
McGonigal, who left the FBI in 2018, was involved in the bureau’s probe of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, according to text messages released by Senate Republicans. "Our Team is currently talking to [Carter Page] re Russia," he wrote on March 16, 2017, to an FBI colleague.
It is unclear what other involvement McGonigal had in the Trump-Russia probe. But that investigation also scrutinized Deripaska’s relationship with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Manafort and Deripaska had business dealings in Ukraine and maintained contact during the 2016 campaign.
Deripaska also has ties to former British spy Christopher Steele, who alleged in an infamous dossier that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s dossier for its investigation, but failed to verify the collusion allegations. Deripaska once hired Steele to work on a "research project" on his behalf.