The former FBI official arrested Monday for allegedly taking illegal foreign payments played a key role in the FBI’s controversial “Russiagate” investigation of former President Donald Trump — and a “defense briefing” of former rival Hillary Clinton’s lawyers.
Charles “Charlie” McGonigal, 54, was among the first FBI officials to learn that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had “political dirt” on Clinton.
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jonathan Moffa told Senate Judiciary Committee officials in 2020 that he received an email in July 2016 from McGonigal that “essentially contained that report, which then served as the basis for opening the case ».
The FBI investigation, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and a 22-month, $32 million probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to associates of Trump, now 76.
Shortly before Mueller was appointed, McGonigal also sent a message to an FBI colleague discussing how agents were interviewing another Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
“Our team is currently in discussions with CP and Russia,” McGonigal wrote on March 16, 2017, according to Justice Department records released by Senate Republicans.
At the time, McGonigal had recently been promoted to special agent in charge of the FBI’s New York counterintelligence division after serving as chief of the cyber-counterintelligence coordination division in Washington, DC.
Page was monitored by the FBI in 2016 based on a request under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that claimed he “was the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government” — a claim Page has denied.
The petition — which also cited allegations from the discredited “Steele dossier” against Trump — was approved and renewed three times, leading the Justice Department’s inspector general to issue a scathing 2019 report that called it a “clear abuse of the FISA process.” .
In 2020, former FBI attorney Kevin Klinesmith pleaded guilty to forging an email linked to the final FISA application to monitor Page and was sentenced to one year of probation.
McGonigal’s name is also first on a list of FBI officials who received an Oct. 22, 2015, memo about a “classified defense briefing” given to lawyers for the Clinton presidential campaign about efforts by an unidentified foreign government to influence the candidate through “lobbying efforts and campaign contributions.”
That document was released in 2020 by then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said it showed “a clear double standard by the Department of Justice and the FBI when it came to the Trump and Clinton campaigns in 2016 ».
“When it came to the Trump campaign, four counter-intelligence investigations were launched against associates of the Trump campaign,” Graham said at the time. “Not once has President Trump been defensively briefed on the FBI’s concerns.”
In his 2019 report, Mueller wrote that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
But the report also outlined 11 possible cases of obstruction by Trump, who Mueller tried in 2019 “was not exonerated of the acts he allegedly committed.”