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The FBI Knew that Rudy Giuliani Knew that Putin Knew About Hunter Biden's Laptop
Filed under: DAMAGE
In recent disclosures to Congress, FBI whistleblower Johnathan Buma alleges that Rudy Giuliani “may have been compromised” by Russian intelligence when he was a lawyer on Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign. Furthermore, “in the course of my service, I have become aware of highly suspicious suppression of investigations and intelligence gathering on the part of FBI management; these actions can have no legitimate national security basis and to the contrary could only be detrimental to its mission.”
“These matters relate generally to the Russian Intelligence Service (RIS) in the context of foreign influence over U.S. elections and an apparent effort within FBI management to shield certain politically active figures" — including Giuliani — “and possibly also FBI agents who have a relationship with these figures,” Buma wrote.
In the document, he later names Charles McGonigal, a former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI Counterintelligence Division in New York who pleaded guilty in August to money laundering on behalf of sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. McGonigal is likely the New York FBI Field Office (NYFO) supervisor who worked to suppress Buma’s reporting. McGonigal has spent most of his career in Manhattan. Giuliani has always had friends in NYFO. This is a potential counterintelligence disaster.
“In addition to the ongoing case in New York, McGonigal also faces separate charges in Washington, D.C., for 'concealing his relationship with a former employee of an Albanian intelligence agency,'“ congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) noted in a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray yesterday. “While the payment McGonigal received from the former Albanian official is considerably larger than what he received from Deripaska — over $225,000 — McGonigal is reportedly working to reach a similar plea deal with federal prosecutors in Washington.”
Wray is resisting disclosure and Jordan is threatening subpoenas. That is very different from 2021, when Jordan was demanding answers from Wray about the FBI search warrants on Giuliani’s Manhattan office and home. The FBI ultimately decided not to indict Giuliani on those charges of foreign lobbying. Now the politics have become more complicated and that decision becomes suspect.
Reading the tea leaves, John Schindler wonders: “did the corrupt G-Man act alone when he went rogue, or did he, per rumors in spy circles, have helpers?” Like, say, an informal network of good-old-boys with FBI badges swimming in eastern oligarch cash.
Although the media has focused on the more clickbait-worthy Russian aspect of this scandal, its ugly Albanian shenanigans, with reports of payoffs and intimidation involving a NATO ally, represent the bigger criminal concern (as I've reported several times in recent months). That's perhaps why Jordan's committee is demanding answers before the Justice Department reaches another plea deal to make McGonigal’s Balkan scandal go away.
Buma further alleges that he was shut down during a meeting when he began to brief a superior on allegations about Giuliani being compromised. Worse, the FBI sent him to Fox Mulder’s old basement office and shut down his intelligence network on Russian money laundering right as the invasion of Ukraine began in 2022. Parallel to the Mueller investigation, Buma had developed contacts in the world of Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. His independent reports on illegal activity drew the attention of the Mueller investigation, and consequently FBI management. Crucially, the Mueller team never examined counterintelligence questions at all, confining their inquiry to potential criminal charges instead.
“During this period, I gradually came to understand that nearly all the reporting on RIS money laundering operations was viewed by senior figures at the Bureau as intensely politically sensitive” because Russian money was financing “covert operations” in the United States and around the world, he writes. Buma developed a source, code name Dynamo, who passed along various intelligence items of varying quality and character.
Buma says that Dynamo consistently identified what he felt to be disinformation among the good information passing through his hands. This is hardly unusual in the HUMINT (human intelligence) world, and a reliable source able to help vet information is gold. Yet this disinformation was the exact excuse used to shut Buma down last year. The pressure began in 2019, under Trump. It never actually stopped with the election of Biden.
During 2019, Buma discerned “a narrative to attack the character of Joseph R. Biden” woth “derogatory information concerning the Bidens and Burisma.” When that story appeared in American media, Buma thought “it was being provided for political influence rather than law enforcement purposes.” However, after providing Ukrainian-language documents and other evidence to FBI agents investigating Hunter, “I later learned from the media that some of the allegations appeared to have been true.”
As we have noted before, there was always a ‘there’ there because that is how damage works. Partisans hoping to ignore or minimize the Biden family business are fooling themselves. Clearly, then-vice president Biden played fast and loose with the rules while his son was bringing in all that foreign lucre. Whether those actions count as high crimes and misdemeanors is yet to be determined. However, a public perception of Joe Biden as dishonest is setting in stone. It gets worse with every episode of investigatory stonewalling disclosed to us.
No longer the “garrulous glad-hander,” by running next year “Biden risks undoing his greatest achievement — which was stopping Trump,” David Ignatius recently wrote in the Washington Post. Thus the impact of the Hunter Biden laptop story has merely been delayed, not prevented, by social media censorship. As always it is the cover-up, and not the crime, that leaves the damage. Federal law enforcement and intelligence figures called the laptop “Russian disinformation” in October 2020. Garbled and deranged as it was, that open letter should be seen as a tacit admission that a chain of knowledge existed.
The FBI knew that Giuliani knew that the Russians knew about Hunter’s laptop. This will not satisfy any partisans, of course, but it explains the whole history rather elegantly. McGonigal and Giuliani were corrupted by foreign, and yes Russian, influence. They were swimming in the same sea of oligarch money as Hunter, indeed they were not following any rules at all because senior FBI management ran interference for them.
Anyone hoping to resurrect the ‘Russian collusion’ argument will be disappointed, however. As Marcy Wheeler has noted, McGonigal was part of Operation Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign, but he was only ever in a position to derail investigations into Oleg Deripaska and Paul Manafort, the dirty money connections. In other words, as long as McGonigal enjoyed FBI protection, he could interfere with Buma’s investigation, covering for himself and Giuliani, to access that sea of subversive, laundered influence money.
Buma was praised for this work, but “in 2020 and 2021, it became increasingly apparent to me that my reporting on” Pavlo Yakovitch Fuks, a Russian-Ukrainian oligarch, “and his ties to Giuliani was negatively received by my superiors, who were eager for the flow of information about Fuks and his relationship with Giuliani to stop.” Fuks, Buma alleges, seems to be the originator of those silly Kremlin talking points about the “de-Nazification of Ukraine.” Fuks was keen to return the city of Kharkiv to Russian control and Giuliani visited Fuks in Kharkiv. He was just one American politician Fuks approached throughout 2019, which is how the oligarch appeared on Johnathan Buma’s radar.
“Engaging with and attempting to influence politically exposed persons in the United States appears to have been a priority for Fuks over the last many years” before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Buma says. He sent a comprehensive report on Fuks to the “FBI detailee to the Department of the Treasury” recommending that the oligarch be added to the list of sanctioned figures. “I never heard back concerning this recommendation, despite my several inquiries” about it, Buma says. “In addition to his extensive dealings with Giuliani, Fuks also had dealings with Donald Trump in the years before he stood as candidate for president, engaging with him in discussions about a Trump Tower deal.”
And there it is: our long, national nightmare in the wilderness of mirrors, with everyone yelling about fake news and bias.
There was always a ‘there’ there. Paul Manafort was there in Trump Tower during the meeting of Trump kids with Kremlin lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in 2016. Donald Trump was there in his office, happily taking Russian money into his real estate empire for many years before he ran for president.
Like Joe Biden, he was pretending to not know, or that it did not matter anyway. It may not have mattered except that they both ran for president.
Shrugging worked as a strategy for Trump. Robert Mueller was unwilling to indict a sitting president and when impeachment fizzled Americans dismissed the whole matter. Yet Russia had not stopped its efforts to influence American politicans, while Rudy Giuliani was perpetually broke. Supply met demand and they shook hands at Charles McGonigal. For some reason, senior FBI officials wanted to keep it all quiet, and eventually shut down Johnathan Buma’s investigation of Russian and Ukrainian influence-buying — just in time for Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
“Is the FBI truly biased against Trump?” asks a recent headline about the Buma affidavit in The New Yorker, inferring that the true bias may have been pro-Trump. However, this is the wrong question. Trump was no longer president after 20 January 2021, while Christopher Wray was still in charge of the FBI. This may be a bigger problem than we realize, indeed more systemic than just Trump.
As Craig Unger pointed out in February, something is rotten in the bureau when FBI leaders consistently warn America about Russian mafia influence, retire, and then take on Russian mafia clients in civilian law practice. Giuliani fits this mold and so does McGonigal. They are all cashing in on their careers by selling out to the crooks.
If this is indeed the problem, then it is a national security threat demanding the kind of reform in which lawmakers set aside partisan difference. It requires a disambiguation of real intelligence from Russian disinformation. That is a lot to ask of America these days.
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