On Saturday, the FBI arrested one of its own. Charles McGonigal, who used to head counterintel for the Bureau in New York and investigated Trump over Russiagate, was busted at JFK Airport and has been charged with violating the sanctions placed on Oleg Deripaska.
Deripaska, a Russian oligarch allied with Putin, has his name scrawled on parts of Russiagate. Before Christopher Steele was brought on board to produce the infamous dossier aimed at Trump, the British ex-agent had been working on a project for Deripaska to go after Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, who would also prove to be an FBI target.
In the tangled relationship that is an apt metaphor for Russiagate, the Russian billionaire appeared at times to be an FBI asset and at other times employed FBI personnel.
McGonigal is reportedly one of a number of ex-FBI agents who became freelance consultants, like American versions of Steele, under investigation. And connections between ex-FBI officials and the Russians have gone even higher than McGonigal. Louis Freeh, Bill Clinton’s former FBI director, represented a number of Russian oligarchs and his deceased predecessor, Director William Sessions worked for a top Russian mafia figure linked to Putin.
We may very well find that the retired FBI officials who haven’t gotten contracts as commentators for cable news have gone to work for the Russians. And McGonigal may be the first of a number of FBI figures who were tasked with fighting Russian influence who instead learned enough to go to work for the Russians.
If McGonigal is guilty, it’s because he was following in the footsteps of retired FBI directors and top elected officials. Deripaska had previously managed to purchase the services of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to “persuade U.S. officials his client isn’t a criminal” and of a firm linked to Hillary’s communications director and Bill Clinton’s deputy press secretary. When you can buy both sides of the 1996 presidential election, why quibble at a mere FBI official? Russia may be a mafia state, but unfortunately we’ve become one too.
A long list of American political elites had taken Deripaska’s money. And the FBI had been corrupted into serving the political interests of that elite rather than protecting the homeland.
When it came to Deripaska, the FBI’s priorities were helping Hillary Clinton win an election.
Even while Deripaska was suspected of, according to the New York Times, “extortion, bribery and even murder”, he was able to spend time in New York while the FBI tried to solicit information from him about Trump’s Russian connections. Instead of ‘flipping’ Deripaska, the Russian oligarch allegedly flipped the head of FBI counterintelligence operations in New York who would have likely led efforts to gain information from him on Trump.
Deripaska had apparently employed quite a few former government officials like Jonathan Winer, a former top Kerry aide, who lobbied for the Russian oligarch and who also promoted the Steele dossier. The Russian oligarch claims to be the victim in all this. As does Igor Danchenko: the alleged source for much of the Steele dossier and the subject of a failed prosecution effort by Special Counsel Durham. And yet even defenders of the Steele dossier have been forced to argue that it was ‘tainted’ by Russian intelligence. And that means the FBI was tainted too.
But the FBI was tainted as a secondary effect of being politicized by tainted figures.
The Clintons, who had initiated Russiagate, as usual had led the way. In 2009, Hillary Clinton arrived bearing a ‘Reset Button’. The button, pilfered from a hotel swimming pool, was meant to symbolize the desire of the Obama administration for a new relationship with Russia. All it really symbolized was that the Clintons, like the Russians, would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down. And the real relationship launched with that button was between Russia and the Clintons.
This was the same year that Deripaska hired a firm tied to the Clintons. The head of that firm, who would also work for the Russian foreign ministry, would later show up working with Steele and a Justice Department official involved in Russiagate to help the Russian oligarch.
In 2010, a Russian investment bank paid Bill Clinton $500,000 to deliver a speech and Putin called to offer his personal appreciation. Meanwhile the Russians were slowly swallowing Uranium One while investors wrote their checks to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton, who would later reinvent herself as a hawk, conveniently opposed sanctions on Russia.
In 2015, McGonigal was CC’d on a briefing given by the FBI to the Clinton campaign warning that the Bureau had information that a foreign government was “attempting to influence Hillary Clinton through lobbying and campaign contributions”. Rather than investigating potential criminal activity and national security violations by the Clintons, the FBI instead gave them a ‘heads up’ that there was suspicious behavior taking place.
McGonigal had been working on Russian counterintelligence matters since at least the 90s. He had close ties to former FBI Director James Comey. When Trump fired Comey, McGonigal, speaking in an official capacity, called him “one of the most loved leaders that we’ve had” and stated that “many of us who were nominated for leadership positions by him will forever hold him in esteem as we progress through our FBI careers.”
Comey, along with other FBI figures, had signed off on Hillary Clinton’s actions. And there was every reason to believe that the Clintons were the ones who were actually tied to Russia.
Russiagate was a masterstroke that took one of Hillary’s greatest legal vulnerabilities and turned it around so that the country has spent the last six years debating Trump’s ties to Russia while at the same time justifying illegal surveillance and prosecution of her opponent’s associates.
But that victory was ultimately pyrrhic. Hillary still lost the election and her corruption, like that of the Biden family, provided an opening for foreign countries looking to buy influence in America. Beginning with the Clinton era, a generation of FBI officials have alternated between working for the Clintons and the Russians while compromising our national security and domestic politics.
A corrupted FBI leadership did the dirty work of the Clintons, who were looking to redirect the blame for their Russian ties, and then in some cases decided to cut out the middleman by working directly for the Russian oligarchs.
In Washington D.C., retired generals go to work for defense contractors, retired IRS officials teach corporations how to avoid paying taxes and retired FBI officials go to work for the Russians. And aspiring presidents, like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, open nonprofits that allow them to legally take cash from foreign countries while prepping their future administrations.
FBI officials are just copying what they’ve seen top elected officials get away with doing.
Russiagate and what happened to the FBI can’t be understood apart from the routine corruption of a city whose public servants work for the government in order to trade on that knowledge. The grand hypocrisy of Russiagate was that this corrupt political class used its Russian and international connections to smear Trump with their own crimes. Trump wasn’t working for Moscow, but sometimes it seems as if it’s hard to find anyone in Washington D.C. who isn’t.