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COMMENTARY OF THE DAY
By
Robert Namer
Voice Of America
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April 17, 2024

      The disgraced former FBI official who was once part of the bureau’s Trump-Russia collusion probe pleaded guilty to criminal charges for a second time, this time copping to accepting secret payments from a former intelligence agent. This makes the FBI look bad.

     Charles McGonigal, the former head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York, pleaded guilty in the District to a single count of concealment of material facts for taking $225,000 in cash from an ex-Albanian operative while working for the bureau.  Federal prosecutors had charged McGonigal with nine counts, including falsifying records, concealing material facts and making false statements.  Although he was looking at a 55-year prison sentence with the nine charges, he now faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for a single criminal count.

.     McGonigal is the fourth prominent FBI official from the Trump-Russia collusion probe to face criminal charges or be investigated. He was charged in separate indictments in New York and the District accusing him of illegally accepting payments for his work with Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch, and the Albanian intelligence official.  He was legally required to report his contacts with foreign officials to the FBI. Instead, he hid his ties and pursued lucrative business arrangements that conflicted with his job, prosecutors said.

     Court filings say McGonigal took a six-figure payment from a man identified in European media outlets as Agron Neza and did favors for him in exchange, such as meeting with Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama. McGonigal began the arrangement in August 2017 and it continued past his retirement from the FBI in September 2018, according to an indictment filed by prosecutors in the nation’s capital in January.  Prosecutors say the former agent also pressured the FBI to open a criminal foreign lobbying probe that would have benefited Mr. Rama and used the ex-Albanian officer as a confidential source.  Although McGonigal had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, the latest court filings suggest that his legal team is working with federal prosecutors to reach a plea deal.

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