Former FBI agent Charlie McGonigal was charged on Monday with money laundering and violating Russian sanctions, leading to a lot of concern among other former FBI officials, said former assistant director for counter-intelligence Frank Figliuzzi.
Speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, Figliuzzi confessed he was “distraught” and “angry,” but he wasn’t alone among those former Bureau colleagues. He explained that because of this case, they now must reexamine every case that McGonigal touched throughout his career in the New York field office.
“As early as several months ago, if not longer, there was some early reporting that Charlie, who had retired, had been doing some consulting that had gotten him sideways with some administrative regulations,” said Figliuzzi. “When I first thought that, I thought, okay, he hasn’t filled out a foreign agent’s registration form or something like that. This can’t possibly be much worse than that. And of course, it is much, much worse because it extends back to his time as an active-duty FBI executive in the largest FBI office in the nation.”
His takeaway, emotions aside, is “the reach of the Russian government and adversarial intelligence services into our nation and our intelligence community.”
He cited the two dozen Russians meddling in the 2016 election who were indicted. But clearly, there’s far more.
“We’ve got Russians indicted here and there and sanctions and Ukraine. So, if there’s people out there embracing Putin every day on certain platforms and saying, you know, Russia isn’t that bad, they’re our friend, this case is, again, a stark reminder that they get up every day trying to hurt us, trying to penetrate our intelligence community, and sometimes they get it right, and they succeed. and it appears, allegedly, that they may have done it here with Charles McGonigal,” the former FBI official said.
What will ultimately cause more problems is that McGonigal’s reach for cases is wide and it will likely mean a reexamination.
“The question remains why, and no, it’s not a coincidence, although that was his expertise,” he began explaining. “We’re all wondering how far did this go back? He was a senior official in Washington. The Russians spot and assess and the Chinese spot and assess, but that wasn’t his specialty. It was Russia. Did they identify him early on in his career? How much did he touch in his career that has to be looked at? What wasn’t done in the New York field office? Because he mixed it and said no or, what was open and worked even when agents might have been scratching their heads saying I don’t understand why we’re working this. So, lots of work to be done here. As you correctly said, DOJ and the intel community don’t always charge these cases, and they decided to do it here, decided to do it because of the gravity of the case and the evidence.”
He went on to say that there are a lot of rules in place for FBI agents that demand reporting to an ethics board. For McGonigal, Figliuzzi explained that this activity began around the time that McGonigal was about to retire and was clearly preparing to “cash in.”
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