Oh, FBI, get your act together!

There is little question that the investigations of individuals like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton led to the recent suspicion of the bureau among many Americans. Many Republicans and Democrats believe that any FBI investigation of Donald Trump is a witch hunt. Many Democrats believe that any FBI probe of Hillary Clinton was a witch hunt. Observers also point to what they see as disparities in the treatment of each presidential contender and claim that the court system was tilted in favor of one party.

In a cover article from last October, reporter Andy McCarthy stated:

Is it wise to entrust the FBI, which is ostensibly the country’s top federal law enforcement organization, with the crucial task of acting as America’s internal security service and conducting counterintelligence operations against operatives of foreign powers? Despite the importance of both security tasks, domestic law enforcement and foreign counterintelligence are often at odds with one another. Does the FBI need to do both tasks? If it carries out both, can it do so successfully? Can it successfully perform either of them?

Regardless of how you define the FBI’s role, it seems reasonable to request that senior FBI staff members who are in charge of ensuring that sanctions on Russian oligarchs are imposed, do not retire and then go to work for Russian oligarchs and plot to circumvent those penalties. From a news statement from the Department of Justice:

According to court filings, Charles F. McGonigal, 54, of New York City, and Sergey Shestakov, 69, of Morris, Connecticut, are accused of conspiring to violate the IEEPA, violating it, and laundering money in a five-count indictment that was unsealed today in the Southern District of New York.
In accordance with court records, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Oleg Deripaska as a Specially Designated National (SDN) on April 6, 2018, after concluding that the Russian Federation’s actions toward Ukraine pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to American national security and foreign policy. Deripaska was subject to sanctions, according to the U.S. Treasury, for his involvement in the Russian Federation’s energy industry and for acting or allegedly acting on behalf of a senior member of the government, either directly or indirectly.
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Former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) McGonigal departed from the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York in 2018. McGonigal oversaw and took part in investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, when she was employed by the FBI. Former Soviet and Russian ambassador Sergey Shestakov eventually became a citizen of the United States and works as a Russian translator for courts and government agencies.

In defiance of the restrictions the United States had placed on Deripaska in 2018, McGonigal and Shestakov planned to deliver services to him in 2021. In particular, after negotiating with a Deripaska representative, McGonigal and Shestakov agreed to and carried out an investigation against a rival Russian magnate in exchange for covert payments from Deripaska.

You may read the complete indictment here.

Just to be clear, McGonigal was a member of the FBI team looking into possible improper links between Trump and Russia. In contravention of American law, he also quit the FBI to work for a Russian tycoon. It makes sense why Americans are skeptical of the agency.

For what it’s worth, James Comey, a former FBI director, was a hero in McGonigal’s eyes.

Charles McGonigal, special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence branch at its New York field office, announced that James Comey had been “formally sacked.” He participated in a panel discussion with William Evanina, head of the Counterintelligence and Security Center, at a Foreign Policy Association event.

According to McGonigal, “I believe we both believed that Director Comey was arguably one of the most adored leaders that we’ve had in a lot of years assuming a leadership post at the FBI.” As we advance in our FBI careers, I believe many of us who were his leadership position nominees will always hold him in high regard.