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House Judiciary panel wants info from FBI about indicted ex-official Charles McGonigal

Congressman Jim Jordan on "The Takeout"
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan on "The Takeout" — 1/13/2023 45:52

Washington — The GOP-led House Judiciary Committee is seeking information from the FBI about Charles McGonigal, the former top counterintelligence official in the bureau's New York field office who was charged last week with violating U.S. sanctions on Russia and other related offenses.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, wrote a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray on Thursday seeking material and information about McGonigal as part of an investigation into allegations of political bias at the bureau.

The Republicans are also requesting a briefing to discuss the FBI's investigation into McGonigal, including whether the bureau is undertaking any review to determine how Russia and its oligarchs were able to influence senior FBI officials. Jordan and Gaetz set a deadline of Feb. 16 for Wray to respond. The bureau said it received the letter, but had no additional comment. 

McGonigal, 54, was most recently the special agent in charge of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division in New York and retired from the bureau in 2018 after a 22-year career. 

A five-count indictment unsealed in federal court in New York last week accused McGonigal of working for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018, and federal prosecutors allege McGonigal and Sergey Shestakov, a former Russian diplomat who became a U.S. citizen, worked for Deripaska to investigate an unnamed rival Russian oligarch in 2021.

McGonigal is also facing federal charges in Washington, D.C., related to at least $225,000 in cash he allegedly received from a person with business interests in Europe and who worked for a foreign intelligence service.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges in both New York and Washington.

"This misconduct further erodes public confidence in the FBI's conduct and law-enforcement actions," Jordan and Gaetz wrote to Wray. 

Citing reports from conservative news outlets that McGonigal played a role in the FBI's decision to launch its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between former President Donal Trump's campaign and Russia, dubbed "Crossfire Hurricane," the Republicans said McGonigal's indictment "raises new questions about the FBI's counterintelligence efforts during his employment" with the bureau.

Jordan and Gaetz have requested Wray turn over to the committee all personnel records regarding McGonigal; documents and communications "referring or relating to the FBI's process for assessing and responding to the investigation" concerning McGonigal; and material related to the FBI's efforts to mitigate national security risks posed by McGonigal's alleged actions.

Republicans have accused the FBI of improperly targeting Trump with its investigation into possible connections between his 2016 campaign and Russia. The GOP-controlled House has created a select subcommittee, led by Jordan, on the "weaponization of the federal government" that will examine recent actions by the Justice Department and FBI.

The Justice Department's inspector general conducted a review of the origins of the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation and concluded in a December 2019 report that agents made many procedural errors, including "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in warrant applications, but did not find "any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI's decision to conduct these operations."

John Durham, the special counsel who was tasked in 2019 with investigating the Justice Department's investigations surrounding the 2016 campaign, responded to the Horowitz findings at the time, and said he did not agree with parts of the inspector general's report. 

"Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.," Durham said in a statement. "Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened."

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